Hospitality Heals

HOSPITALITY HEALS

MARK 6:1-13, HEBREWS 13:1-13

Take Nothing For the Journey

Listen To Hospitality Heals

 

One pattern I have seen in the healing ministry is that the spiritual atmosphere of a place is important. More important than the faith of any one individual is the faith and expectation of a community of faith. You may not like to hear this but I have found that churches who believe God can heal, see more healings. Churches that believe such things happened in distant past or in foreign lands do not see as many healings, may they be spiritual, mental, or physical. I know this is hard to accept. I know this seems unfair. But it is not only my observation through my travels. It also seems to be a principle found in scripture. While I don’t think we will ever receive an answer in this life as to why some individuals are healed and not others I do think this passage teaches us how to create a spiritual atmosphere where more people are healed overall. What I think this passage says to us today is this;

Hospitality heals.

Indeed, hospitality seems to be the main theme of this passage, though the word is not mentioned. I believe our Lord told his disciples to take nothing with them, not to make their job more difficult, but to make it easier. Forthey would have to depend on the love and hospitality of others which would create a reason to start a relationship and thus open people to hearing the Gospel. The Word hospitality is found twice in the New Testament in Romans 12:2 and Hebrews 13:2. I think the verse in Hebrews gives us a better understanding of what Hospitality means. The word itself literally translates as loving those who are different from you. Loving those whom you have little in common with. Loving the stranger. And in today’s passage we see two examples of hospitality.

  1. Hospitality towards teaching
  2. Hospitality towards Strangers

First, this passage teaches us to be hospitable towards teaching. Our passage today tells us that Jesus could not do many miracles because people in his hometown rejected his teaching. The scripture tells us they rejected his teaching because they thought they knew who Jesus was. He was the carpenter’s son, they knew his parents, his brothers and sisters. The Middle East is a very traditional culture. In that part of the world life isn’t about finding yourself. It is about how you fit into your family and community. For Jesus to act like anything but a carpenter would have been scandalous. And indeed, Mark 3:21 tells us that Jesus’ family thought he was out of his mind. Jesus tells us that we should be judged, not on who our family is, what we have done in the past, but who we are now, and who God is calling us to be in the future. He calls us to look beyond mere appearances. Beyond how the message is packaged to the message itself.

In my own ministry I have often heard that I am a powerful preacher for my height.  I am about 5’ 6’’. I get what people are saying. Often we associate taller men with power and authority. Indeed, one of my mentors is very tall and has a powerful physical presence. He always gets put in charge of things. When he got selected for jury duty for a pretty serious case the jury elected him Forman. And this always happens to my mentor. He gets put in charge of things. First, because he is an excellent manager and leader, but also because he is tall and has a powerful physical presence.  I doubt you would pick me out of a crowd as a leader because being short, it would be hard to find me in a crowd, it would be like Where is Waldo except I don’t wear stripes and I have red hair. I also have been told that sometimes when I preach I had trouble directing my body because I am so into what I am preaching. I may be looking to one corner of the room. People may be wondering if I am looking at my imaginary friend Jared. And yes Derek Hirtz I know that your brother’s name is Jared it is just a coincidence that is the name of my imaginary friend as well. I am just kidding. I don’t have an imaginary friend. And even if I did I wouldn’t tell you all about it.  The point is that none of these things have anything to do with the Word of God. Are we willing to receive teaching despite the packaging?

Before I left for Indiana I had a mentor who I loved. He was an interim pastor, and I would often follow him around to different churches in Richmond. I loved him because he just had a wonderful comforting presence. He was just the type of pastor that was everyone’s father or grandfather. But to be frank he was a much more mello preacher than I am. To be honest, I would often fall asleep during his sermons. But when I returned from Indiana, I visited Richmond one Sunday, and he just happened to be preaching at the church I was visiting. I found that I got much more out of his sermon than I did before I went to Indiana and I did not fall asleep. But that wasn’t because his preaching had changed. It was because I had changed. I had become more spiritually mature. I heard the spiritual truths he imparted and I was encouraged despite the fact that his style of preaching wasn’t my personal preference. The question is are we hungry? Are we hungry for more than bread? Are we hungry for every Word that comes from the mouth of God? Are we willing to say as Samuel said, “Speak Lord for your servant is listening?” (1 Samuel 3:10). Are we willing to hear God’s Word even if it isn’t something that we want to hear? Are we hospitable to his Word?

First, we must be hospitable to the Word of the Lord.  Second, we must be welcoming of strangers.  When I was out in Indiana I was deeply grateful for the ministry of one woman. She was a waitress at a local restaurant and her husband worked in the orthopedics industry which is huge in that area of Indiana. They were not wealthy by any means. But for over a decade they had an after church meal where they fed dozens, sometimes hundreds of people every Sunday. It wasn’t just for their church. People from the local Christian College came. People from other churches came. Over the years they had seen thousands of people dine with them. They never asked anyone to pay. They took donations. Sometimes they would wonder how to pay for all the food. But there was always enough.

Having never been out of Virginia, which is my home, for a long period of time, I didn’t know how different this country actually is. I didn’t know how hard it would be to be away from my home. I didn’t know that I would feel like a stranger in a strange land in Indiana. Certainly, many of you being in military families or knowing military families, know how hard moving is. How hard it is to leave the friends and family that you depend on and go to a place where you know no one. Many of you may have had your spouse to support you. When I moved seven hundred miles to rural Indiana I knew no one outside of my church. And I just didn’t realize how lonely I would feel. I felt like such a stranger. And that meal at that woman’s house meant the world to me. I was a stranger and they welcomed me. And I will be forever grateful to that woman. There is no shame in saying that we just don’t have the time or energy to do what we used to do. But sometimes it is an issue of our values. It is an issue of our priorities. Maybe God is asking some of you to be generous. Maybe he is asking you to start a ministry of hospitality. Are you willing to say speak Lord for your servant is listening?

This call to love the stranger not only applies to congregations it applies to pastors, many of whom don’t get to create their churches from scratch just the way they may like them.  I have found that many pastors see love as a very abstract thing. We say we love our people even though we rather be somewhere else.  If I as your shepherd don’t want to be here why should you want to be here? If I don’t invite people why should you invite people? When I say that I often invite people to this church and that I speak well of you all to my friends you know it to be true. Because you know I am an honest man.  Hospitality on your part is to receive the Word of the Lord. Hospitality on my part is to preach the truth in love. To preach with such love that even when the message is hard you know you are loved.

The Lord has spoken to me much like the way he spoken to me. He told me that God is Love and people give to what they love. If I want you to give more of your time, talent, and treasure, than I should love you more. That is the Way of the Shepherd. To lay His or her life down for His sheep. To build boundaries in love and bridges in love. To say when something is not okay but still with such love that you know it is going to be okay. I want to be a good shepherd as Jesus is a good shepherd. Teach me Lord to love your sheep as you love them. Make me the incarnation of your love. In the words of the artist JJ Heller in her song Till Only Love Remains .

“Only Love Remains”
Scenes of you come rushing through
You are breaking me down
So break me into pieces
That will grow in the ground
I know that I deserve to die
For the murder in my heart
So be gentle with me Jesus
As you tear me apart

Please kill the liar
Kill the thief in me
You know that I am tired of their cruelty
Breathe into my spirit
Breathe into my veins
Until only love remains

You burn away the ropes that bind
And hold me to the earth
The fire only leaves behind whatever is of worth
I begin to see reality
For the first time in my life
I know that I’m a shadow
But I’m dancing in your light

Teach me to be humble
Call me from the grave
Show me how to walk with you upon the waves
Breathe into my spirit
Breathe into my veins
Until only love remains

 

I was driving back from one of these church growth conferences late one night two weeks ago. That night, as I was driving through rural Virginia I heard a song on the radio that brought me to tears. It is by JJ Heller. And it is entitled, “Love Me.” Because I love you I will spare you from my singing and I will just recite her lyrics.

“He cries in the corner where nobody sees
He’s the kid with the story no one would believe
He prays every night, “Dear God won’t you please
Could you send someone here who will love me?”

Who will love me for me
Not for what I have done or what I will become
Who will love me for me
‘Cause nobody has shown me what love
What love really means

Her office is shrinking a little each day
She’s the woman whose husband has run away
She’ll go to the gym after working today
Maybe if she was thinner
Then he would’ve stayed
And she says:

Who will love me for me?
Not for what I have done or what I will become
Who will love me for me?
‘Cause nobody has shown me what love, what love really means

He’s waiting to die as he sits all alone
He’s a man in a cell who regrets what he’s done
He utters a cry from the depths of his soul
“Oh Lord, forgive me, I want to go home”

Then he heard a voice somewhere deep inside
And it said
“I know you’ve murdered and I know you’ve lied
I have watched you suffer all of your life
And now that you’ll listen, I’ll tell you that I…”

I will love you for you
Not for what you have done or what you will become
I will love you for you
I will give you the love
The love that you never knew

And the Lord spoke to me back in March. He said I have loved you with an undying love. This comes from Jeremiah 31;

 

  1. The Lord Spoke to me in the night several months ago. He said I have loved you with an undying love. This comes from Jeremiah 31. Thus says the Lord,
  2. The Lord Will Turn Mourning to Joy
  3. 31 “At that time, declares the Lord, I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be my people.”
  4. Thus says the Lord:
    “The people who survived the sword
    found grace in the wilderness;
    when Israel sought for rest,
        the Lord appeared to him[a] from far away.
    I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
    Again I will build you, and you shall be built,
    O virgin Israel!
    Again you shall adorn yourself with tambourines
    and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.
    Again you shall plant vineyards
    on the mountains of Samaria;
    the planters shall plant
    and shall enjoy the fruit.
    For there shall be a day when watchmen will call
    in the hill country of Ephraim:
    ‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion,
    to the Lord our God.’”
  5. For thus says the Lord:
    “Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
    and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;
    proclaim, give praise, and say,
    ‘O Lord, save your people,
    the remnant of Israel.’
    Behold, I will bring them from the north country
    and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
    among them the blind and the lame,
    the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together;
    a great company, they shall return here.
    With weeping they shall come,
    and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back,
    I will make them walk by brooks of water,
    in a straight path in which they shall not stumble,
    for I am a father to Israel,
    and Ephraim is my firstborn.
  6. 10 “Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
    and declare it in the coastlands far away;
    say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,
    and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’
    11 For the Lord has ransomed Jacob
    and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.
    12 They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
    and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,
    over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
    and over the young of the flock and the herd;
    their life shall be like a watered garden,
    and they shall languish no more.
    13 Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
    and the young men and the old shall be merry.
    I will turn their mourning into joy;
    I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
    14 I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance,
    and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness,
    declares the Lord.”

 

  1. The Lord will love you for you. Not for what you have done or what you will become.  He is the only one who will. We know that Hospitality heals. We have all been strangers in a strange land. So let us love the stranger today.  Father would you reach out your hand and show us that we are not strangers. Reach out your hand and heal.  Lord Jesus we believe. We believe that hospitality heals.
  2. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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