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Gospeltality

by Abi Foerster on June 18, 2024

When I arrived at Community of Faith, the congregation was grieving the retirement of a beloved pastor, and yet you still made room for me, Lacy and my son, Levi.  A variety of small gestures were offered – a plant left on my desk, a card with a gift certificate to Starbucks mailed to our home, a meal or chocolates dropped off on those first few Sundays.  Myriad acts of kindness and warmth.  You let me be me and you didn’t expect me to be Rob.  These are some of the ways you offered me hospitality and I am grateful. 

We use this word, “hospitality” all the time but what does it mean? What does it mean to you?  Being friendly to visitors?  Having coffee and snacks after church?  Posting signs out front that promise openness?  Certainly – hospitality includes all these things.  But it is so much more. 

Read the passage from Romans 12:11 -13 (NIV)

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Ponder this passage in silence. 

Then Read “The Message” version, which is a little nuanced.

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Invite silence once more.

Paul reminds us that we are to practice hospitality – and even be inventive!  In other words, find new ways to welcome others into the life of faith.  You see, there is a REAL difference when we think about GOSPEL hospitality – or as I like to say, GOSPELTALITY.

GOSPELTALITY is different from hospitality in general.  Gospeltality is God’s welcome into his abundant life, where all our welcome is ultimately rooted.  God’s welcome, beloved, is deep and it is wide. Christianity is, at it’s very soul, a welcoming faith that proclaims a welcoming God in the person of Jesus Christ. 

This is not just about newcomers, either!  Gospeltality is about those who are offering the welcome too.  In our lesson this weekend (Genesis 18), Abraham and Sarah extend hospitality to three strangers and as it turned out, they were angels, and perhaps even God!  These messengers from God, also bring the news that Abraham and Sarah will soon have a new baby—seemingly absurd and totally unexpected news that will change their lives forever.  This is what gospetality does – it changes the heart of the newcomer and the heart of the community too. 

The deepest type of hospitality points us to God.  Think about when you’ve been welcomed deeply.  These experiences often come at unexpected times, but they profoundly change the way we see ourselves, others, and God.  Consider the blessing to be shared with the following folks…

  • A young parent with unruly children. How might a smiling greeter or usher help this family just by offering crayons and coloring pages?
  • A recently divorced person, unsure of whether or not Christians see them as a failure. Instead, they find a place of welcome and belonging.
  • Someone estranged from God who comes back to church after a long time of being away. A neighbor answers their questions and affirms their journey.
  • Consider your own examples.

Unfortunately, many folks who are part of a church have never experienced this type of deep welcome in church.  For many folks, being deeply welcomed doesn’t happen in church at all.  Instead, it often happens in …

  • AA meetings
  • During chemotherapy treatments
  • By a school counselor or teacher
  • A coach or neighbor
  • At a local pub or restaurant.

It’s not that these places are bad places for people to experience hospitality.  They’re not.  However, for the church – the point of hospitality is to invite others to experience the living, welcoming God and to experience the living, welcoming God in others.

It’s a two way street.  There are two sides to Gospetality – if we’re open to our hearts being changed. 

Read the passage a third time from Romans 12:11 -13.  This time listen to where God might be inviting YOU to apply this passage to your own life and understanding of faith.  In other words, what does God want you to do or change?

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

PRAY

Loving God, we praise you that all of the earth is yours and we thank you for the privilege of knowing you and being your people. We pray that as we discover your heart of love, we would become more like you in our hearts and in our actions, caring for those who are vulnerable and welcoming the stranger. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Tags: welcome, strangers, hospitality