01 May 2016

Last week the Lectionary challenged us to bring life to others through following Christ’s example of love. This week, that love gets practical as the readings call us to embody God’s hospitality. If anything expresses the life that is unleashed through the Easter event, it is when we learn to see Christ in the stranger, and welcome them into our lives and hearts.

May your worship be a home for you and for the strangers among you this week.

READINGS:
Acts 16:9-15
: In response to Paul’s vision, he and his companions go to Macedonia, where they preach to a group of women in Philippi. Lydia, from Thyatira (thus, a foreigner) is one of those who receive the Gospel message, and she immediately offers hospitality to Paul and his friends.

Psalm 67: An invitational psalm encouraging all the nations to praise God, to enjoy God’s mercy and receive God’s provision.

Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5: John’s vision of the New Jerusalem, where the gates are never closed, but no evil can enter. God’s security and hospitality are offered to the nations.

John 14:23-29: Jesus promises the gift of the Holy Spirit – God making God’s home within those who love God.
OR John 5:1-9: Jesus heals the sick man at the pool of Bethesda.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
Taking last week’s vision of inclusivity even further, the Scriptures this week offer us a vision of hospitality as the model of God’s work in those who love God, and of the life which flows from it. In Acts, Lydia, the new convert, immediately understands that a life of following Christ is a life of hospitality – and offers hospitality to Paul and friends. In Psalm 67, all nations are invited into God’s mercy, security and provision – a vision of adoration for God’s hospitality. In Revelation, the vision of the New Jerusalem is one of God’s hospitality offered to all nations, providing security, healing and food. In the Gospel, the vision is beautifully reversed – God, by God’s Spirit, seek to enjoy the hospitality of the human heart, coming to indwell us, and then lead us into lives of obedient love. In the alternative Gospel reading, the outworking of this love or hospitality of God is dramatically revealed in the healing of the sick man – who has, perhaps, become too “at home” with his illness.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
Global Application:
A vision of a hospitable world is a vision of hope, and also a challenge to the ways in which we fall short of this ideal. In so many ways, our world has developed a culture of suspicion and inhospitality. But, arguably the primary characteristic of Jesus’ first followers as they sought to live out the Gospel was hospitality, reflected in feeding the hungry (current equivalent: global debt relief and removal of unjust trade restrictions?), inviting strangers into their homes (current equivalent: humane and just immigration laws?), and serving and praying for the sick, the widow and the orphan (current equivalent: equitable health care and social care and upliftment systems?). For those of us who seek to follow Christ, our vote, and our voice in public dialogue, on these key issues are a significant influence in creating a more hospitable world.

Local Application:
Hospitality is the essential challenge of the Gospel. Matthew Fox, in his book Original Blessing, suggest that the true meaning of “holiness” is hospitality. Hospitality is, essentially, the offer of safety, comfort, nourishment and friendship to both friend and stranger. The Scriptures show that this is a high ideal in God’s purposes. What this means for us is, initially, an opening of our hearts to welcome the stranger and friend, offering safety, comfort and love. Then, this must overflow into practical hospitality, opening our ‘homes’ – our communities, our churches, our neighbourhoods and, yes, even our literal homes, to those who need shelter, safety, nourishment, acceptance and friendship. How, in your church and its worship, can you become more welcoming and more hospitable to those who are homeless and friendless?

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Prayers:
A Way Home
The Amazing Invitation
A Place For Us

Hymn Suggestions:
Where Cross The Crowded Ways Of Life
I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord
O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go
Jesus, United By Thy Grace
You Are
All Who Are Thirsty (Link to YouTube video)
Always Forever (Link to YouTube video)
Creator King (Link to YouTube video)
Jesus My Desire
Awesome God (Your Voice) (Link to YouTube video)

Liturgy:
A Liturgy for the Breaking Of Bread

Video Suggestions:
Psalm 67
Hospitality & Salvation
Hospitality

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