Christ is Hospitality!

Genesis 22: 1-14
Psalm 13
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10: 40-42

Jesus says, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” Matthew 10: 40

Tena koutou katoa e te whanau o Te Wairua Tapu.

Just to keep you all updated whanau. Te Wairua Tapu will not be open for use until the renovations are completed. At this stage we are hoping it will be August but I will keep you informed. In the meantime, I will continue to post my weekly kauwhau on our church Facebook page. 

Over the past couple of weeks, the focus of the gospel has been on mission. The verses from Matthew today come at the end of Jesus’ korero to his disciples (10:5-42). Up to this point, Jesus has been talking about what the disciples should do and the difficulties that they will face and what others will do to them because of their witness for Christ. Jesus then teaches them about hospitality in the context of discipleship. These verses speak about hospitality as receiving and welcoming strangers. 

I was talking to a friend the other day, and we were sharing how privileged we were to grow up in small but tight rural communities. Every home was our home, every meal in any of those homes was our meal, we played together, got hidings from each other and our parents, aunties and uncles. What was theirs was ours and what was ours was theirs. We were taught hospitality by people who lived it. Of course, the community wasn’t perfect but we learnt the essence of hospitality and everybody contributed to giving life to the community. They lived out their theology. Their relationship with God was real! Even strangers were felt welcome, invited into our homes and shared in a meal, it wasn’t a feast but they got a feed and a bed for the night, even if it meant you getting kicked out of your bed and you had to share with someone else or a couple of others. Took me a lot of years to work it all out but I understand the lesson. What you give is what you get back. Don’t give if you expect something back, you’ll be waiting a long time. And when you do receive, watch out, it may not be what you expected, it will be more than you can imagine. However, we both agreed, times have changed and life is no longer like that but for us we will maintain the same values and principles. Why? Because hospitality is God given so why change?

In today’s gospel, Jesus reminds us that discipleship is a privilege and a huge responsibility. He tells us that we represent him before others and the reverse is also true: that others represent him before us. Jesus assures us that he is present in our lives when we welcome others into our midst, especially strangers, and he is also present when others do the same for us. In other words, we bring Christ before others in our homes, in the church, at work, out socialising and anything else we do in the world. What would happen if, every day, we were always conscious of this truth and did our best to put it into practice? Rather than just on Sundays! When we offer and receive hospitality, Jesus is made present. This is the most precious gift we could give to anyone!

Most of us probably don’t find it hard to offer hospitality to our family and friends, but what about the stranger, people we don’t know? How often do we welcome them? Do we give them the gift of Christ’s presence? Or do we say to ourselves, they’re all good, they got their own people who take care of them? Hospitality is risky business. An open heart and an open home or church is a target for unpleasant experiences. We all know how people can take advantage of others hospitality and generosity: bring nothing, give nothing, take everything! But that’s okay. God knows, so let it be. That’s the thing about hospitality. It isn’t only about showing it or being it at home but going some place and quietly hoping that the receiver of our hospitality will see Christ in us but when we arrive, we realise Christ is already there, in them, waiting to greet us. This is where we need to acknowledge that as followers of Christ we are special and unique but so is everyone else. Don’t ever believe you or we are the only ones serving Christ, you will only end up disappointed.

You see, the real meaning of discipleship hospitality is found in inviting someone into your space who cannot repay you and someone who is unfamiliar to you. Why? Because Christ is the hospitality of God toward us. God invites all to the great banquet, the feast which none of us can repay. God gives to us fully in his son Jesus Christ and God also fully receives us and accepts us as we are. To be faithful disciples and to represent God, we need to push the boundaries of what we find comfortable and easy. Strangers will always make us uncomfortable but with God’s help it’s not impossible to reach out to them. So the next time you give or receive hospitality, remember to just rejoice in the other person’s presence; not judge them. Remember that it may very well make all the difference in the world to the person who receives your hospitality. And remember the reverse is also true; someone may be the very presence of Christ for you in an unexpected time and place. Amen.

God of hospitality, even a glass of water given in your name is rewarded beyond measure. So fill our hearts with love that we welcome all in your name, For you are alive and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen 

The Venerable Kaio Karipa
The Sydney Maori Anglican Fellowship Church of Te Wairua Tapu