Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Happy New Year! This Sunday is a family service. Kids, I’m excited that you’ll be in “big church” and I have much to share with YOU. So please come and sit close to the front. Kick out the guys who normally sit in the front row! Here are some thoughts to prepare you for Sunday.
In the beginning there was hospitality. God created a home for us to enjoy with him (Gen. 1:1). It’s called the Earth. All the wonders of creation are for all of his creatures to enjoy. On Wednesday I visited the Pinnacles with my family (we saw a herd of outlaw pigs!). I was reminded again about this amazing “global mansion” that our Creator constructed for us with mountains, planes, waterfalls, lakes, rivers and plants. Psalm 65:9 says “You take care of the earth and water it, making it rich and fertile…it provides a bountiful harvest of grain, for you have ordered it so.”
In the middle there was hospitality. Jesus’ ministry was sustained by hospitable friends. Luke reports that women who had been healed met his needs as well as the needs of his disciples (Luke 8:1-3). And we can’t forget that Jesus himself offered hospitality, being host to an outdoor dinner party of thousands (Matt. 14:19-20). And did you know that the good news about Jesus went out in all directions in the early years through hospitality? After all, it was people, not parchment, that spread the happy facts about Jesus in the first years after our Lord’s death, burial and resurrection. That’s why John praises Gaius in 3 John for welcoming traveling missionaries (“Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are,” –3 John 1:5).
At the end there will be hospitality. Our King himself will welcome his servants across the threshold of the new heavens and earth. After Jesus cuts the ribbon and we (those who received him into the home of our hearts — John 1:12) enter our new residence, the celebration will be centered on a meal that he will prepare and present (“…he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.” –Luke 12:37). The prophet Isaiah gives us a glimpse of the menu in chapter 25 of his prophecy.
In the present there will hospitality. The New Testament writers stress that believers will open their lives and share what they have with those who lack bodily, social and spiritual necessities. (“Seek to show hospitality,” –Romans 12:13.) Hospitality is exhilarating, transformative and yes, a little risky for guests and hosts. But the results and rewards are staggering. The Valley leaders are praying that this year every believing man, woman, teen and child will identify as a “host” who rushes to meet the needs not just of friends, but of the unfamiliar.
Love in Christ,
Here’s a note about the picture I included. It’s a shot of the back door of Saint Peter and Paul Church in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. Notice the little man framed by the cross who walked by at just the right moment. It struck me as a image of what God does to our vision when we welcome his Son into our hearts. A third-century bishop named Cyprian wrote that the devil’s eye ointment blinds us to others but that Christ provides a salve which clears our frosted vision to see and feel for others.