I am teaching a Lent Bible study based on Paul’s letter to the Philippians and this week’s lesson was on joyful hospitality. Hospitality is a very big deal in the Bible. The people depended on it in order to travel in a time before Marriott Courtyards and Airbnbs were available. To be welcomed in, fed, and offered a place to rest was essential. From Abraham and Sarah to the Disciples, hospitality was ingrained in the culture. Because of this practice the gospel spread from town to town and country to country. It is how the church began.
Last week’s lesson was on humility, where we are invited to consider that there is no task too small in serving God. When we combine humility with hospitality we become something very useful to God.
In today’s reading, Paul tells his beloved church that he is planning to send two men to visit them in the near future. He is counting on them to provide their usual joyful, humble attitude and their hospitality. He reminds them of what a joyful church should look like:
Philippians 2 (The Message)
12-13 What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.
In welcoming others we are reminded to be energetic, reverent, and sensitive before God. What we say, how we say it, and most importantly what we DO reflect God’s presence in our lives.
In class this week a member shared a story of two women in our church who volunteered at a local thrift store when they lived in our community. The thrift store supports a faith-based drug and alcohol recovery program in our community and these women loved the young men who are in the program. They determined that the clothing part of the store was in disarray so they volunteered three days a week to manage that part of the enterprise.
One Monday night at our evening worship one of them mentioned that her back was sore. Her friend asked if they had processed a lot of donations that day and she responded that no, it was sore from scrubbing the toilet at the store that the young men used all day. The humbleness of this task takes my breath away. She was doing her task readily and cheerfully, providing living proof of God’s work in the world. The combination of humility and hospitality in her gesture is the very gospel itself.
14-16 Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing.
What can you do today as a gesture of humility in doing the work of the Lord? Who is God asking you to invite in? What offer of hospitality can you extend to someone that will bring the light-giving love of Christ into their reality?
God calls each one of us to practice the same humility that Christ exhibited as he humbled himself on the cross. We are invited to be invitational in sharing his cross with others in our community.
Go, and do likewise.