Lent Leads To Hospitality, John 13
Before the festival of the Passover began, Jesus realized that the time had come for him to leave this world and return to the Father. He had loved those who were his own in this world, and he loved them to the end. By supper-time, the devil had already put the thought of betraying Jesus in the mind of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son. Jesus, with the full knowledge that the Father had put everything into his hands and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from the supper-table, took off his outer clothes, picked up a towel and fastened it around his waist. Then he poured water into the basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to dry them with the towel around his waist.
When Jesus had washed their feet and put on his clothes, he sat down and spoke to them, "Do you realize what I have just done to you? You call me 'teacher' and 'Lord' and you are quite right, for I am your teacher and your Lord. But if I, your teacher and Lord, have washed your feet, you must be ready to wash one another's feet. I have given you this as an example so that you may do as I have done. Believe me, the servant is not greater than his master, and the messenger is not greater than the man who sent him. Once you have realized these things, you will find happiness in doing them.
Popular magazines like Southern Living and famous celebrities like Rachel Ray and Paula Dean define hospitality as wonderful dinners and polite conversations in beautifully decorated homes. Hospitality in their hands becomes private entertainment, usually extended to people more or less similar to the host.
Hospitality is the planned, the expected, fresh-cut flowers, banana pudding, and a hostess gift. Hospitality has become privatized. Is there such a thing as public hospitality?
If you go to a university's website, you are likely to find a major or curriculum labeled "Tourism and Hospitality." Likewise, there is an entire industry dedicated to hospitality---cruises, hotels, packaged tours—you get the idea. Let's label this form of hospitality as "marketed hospitality." A professional way of making you and I feel taken care of, and we reciprocate with money. They make us feel welcome. We pay for the feeling. It's nothing more than a transaction. "I'll get you a cab, sir, no worries." I tip him for going to the curve and making my transition from the motel to the road easy. "You need a toothbrush in room 290. It will be there in a moment, sir." And it is. I pay the bill, and there's no charge for the toothbrush; it's complimentary, but it cost me $7 a night to park my car in a parking lot. Is it hospitality if I pay for it? I do not deny it's nice, but let's call it something else. The friendly reception and treatment of guests is appreciated. If I have to pay you to treat me nice and receive me warmly, I'm not sure what to call this, but it is not hospitality.
People like to be friendly but being friends is a different story. We have to be mindful of this in church. We can easily be friendly, smile, speak warmly, and be polite, but being friends is a different story. Friends help others move. Friends don't ask friends to help them move. Friends send notes. Friends forgive, friends bring red velvet cake over when you are sick. Friendly happens; we can choose to act friendly---it seems so planned. Being friends is not convenient. “Can you drop me off at the airport at 5:50 . . . AM?” It's not easy to be friends. If you are a good one, it will wear you out.
If the hospitality we pay for is marketed hospitality, what shall we call hospitality shown to us we don't pay for? When you are sick, and someone cleans up behind you. When you are hospitalized, and someone cuts your grass? When you are young and getting started, and someone shares their beach condo with you? When people do the unexpected instead of the minimum, what can we call this? I'm going to name it after Jesus. I'm going to call it "Jesus Hospitality." They ask you to carry a bag one mile. You carry it for two. Jesus hospitality is when you bring a hostess gift, it's a nice plate for chips and dip, and the host gives you a car---- that's Jesus hospitality, it's unexpected and overwhelming.
No one walked into the evening meal on that Thursday night expecting their feet washed, and they certainly would not have expected it from Jesus. They came expecting polite conversation and food, but they left inspired and changed. Jesus Hospitality is doing more for people than they expect. You’re expecting to leave with a full tummy, but you leave with a full heart and clean feet.
It's not likely we will wash each other's feet this morning. You came today expecting a sermon and some music, warm fellowship, and a word from God. Hospitality would mean we are providing something more, something you did not expect. So, this morning while we are in here, a group of people are out washing your cars in the parking lot for free. This is our hospitality.
Now let me say this would have been a good idea, but there is no one in the parking lot washing cars, just a small gimmick to make sure you are listening. Yet here is the lesson----when we do the bare minimum, we've done something, but that something is not hospitality.
Consider the feet Jesus washed. There was Simon the Zealot. Now you know what a Zealot is---- he's either in the tea party or occupying Wall Street depending on his leanings, but he's not easy to get along with. After the Zealot's feet, Jesus turns to Matthew the Publican.
Matthew collected taxes for the state. He was a company man, a Jew who supported the government of the Romans. Same towel, same Lord, same water. Then there’s Peter, who is a working man, next to him is John, who was wealthy enough to have servants. This room was filled with opposites. It was intentional. A room designed, arranged, and organized by the divine.
Earlier this month and in a couple of weeks, one of our teams is over at Triune Mercy Center, feeding the homeless. People are homeless for a variety of reasons. When you sit down with them, you don't just ask, "How'd you end up here?" First you listen, and then you may one day ask, "When did you end up homeless?" The answer will not be April or 2006, the answer will be, "it started when I couldn't afford the rent anymore" then there is going to be a "because" and following the "because" is where people react differently toward the homeless----some are going to say "because my drinking got the best of me" others are going to say "because the business I was cleaning for when out of business." There's a lot of reasons why they are homeless.
Our group is performing hospitality because they do the unexpected; they bring food. There are 629 churches in Greenville, the expectation is that most of them will sing songs and preach, maybe offer communion. We are not the only church to help others, and Triune is not the only place working with the homeless, but I imagine there are no more than thirty churches doing the unexpected and feeding the homeless and offering "Jesus hospitality."
Jesus Hospitality is not reserved for those like himself but given to all. Jesus' hospitality is not Martha Stewart's hospitality. This hospitality is not exchanged for money. It is not reserved for the wealthy or given to those who have something we need. Jesus hospitality—is the unexpected given to the unexpecting.
So how can we practice Jesus style hospitality? How can we use Lent to up our hospitality game?
Begin with this, is there an employee you have who you think is promising? Hospitality does not always arrive in a casserole dish. Remember it is the unexpected shared with the unexpecting. Sens an unexpected note of encouragement to this employee?
We have several college students away from family. Maybe there is a college student you know who struggles financially, or one who is doing well in their studies, send them the unexpected $20 and write, “keep up the good work.”
Is there someone in your neighborhood who has been sick or who is older and doesn't get around like they once did? Do the unexpected.
Do you have a grandparent you haven’t seen in forever? If they are local go stand outside the house and speak to them through the window. If they are far away, write a note and send it. Hospitality is going more than one mile.
Do you know someone who is out of work, do something unexpected for them. You don't have to offer a job but give them some time to talk. A listening ear remains a rare quality, it may be the most hospitality body part we have.
I have read this story too many times to recall. Yet the more I have read, the more I am convinced Jesus' hospitality is doing what is unexpected but always welcomed.
It is feeding a group when they are in a barren place.
It is saying “join us” to a woman who is normally not welcomed.
It is asking a woman at a well to share a cup.
It is seeing a man a friendless man in a tree and saying “friend, I’m coming to your house.”
Market hospitality would offer you a place to wash your own feet, for a price.
Friendly people would give you some privacy, a warm cloth, some water, and a basin.
Jesus’ hospitality is open-armed and unlimited.
What separates Jesus’ hospitality is he will wash hour feet for us; friends will do for us what we couldn't pay others to do, like die on a cross.