South of the Hugh River, NT 2016

Hospitable Kingdom of God

Gospel: Luke 10: 1-20

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.8Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” 10But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say,11“Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.”12I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.

13 ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14But at the judgement it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15And you, Capernaum,will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades.

16 ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.’

17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’ 18He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’

When you arrive at the house you are fussed over. Hugs and cries of welcome and handshakes all round. You are shown to your room. The towels are laid out waiting. If it is your first visit, you will be shown where the toilet and bathroom are, and where the spare blankets are in case you get cold. They’ll show you this in the summer time, too! And where the iron is. And there’re spare coat hangers in the wardrobe, and can we get you anything else?

Then it will be time for tea or coffee, and cake or biscuits; probably both. If it’s early afternoon, the lady of the house might later have a nap, she’s getting old. But she tells you this in a tentative kind of way, so that if you felt you needed company, or needed to find something down in the town, there will be plenty of time for that to happen.

And then... “I thought I would have tea at 6.30pm. Is that alright with you? Is there anything that you can’t eat, or would prefer not to have?”

There will be too much food, rather than risk your going hungry. You’ll be offered seconds, and deserts, and there’ll be fruit on the table after that... just in case. There will be supper, later, with more tea and coffee on offer. They will be staying up late for you, so you can have company and conversation.

You’ll be shown where the breakfast things are. “We’ll have breakfast at 8, but feel free to sleep in, or tuck into food earlier. Are you sure you know where the coffee is? Would you like a port?” my dad will ask.

And they do this for me! Real visitors get the Royal Treatment.

And be warned... Dad is a legend for his generosity with that port.

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This is how he and mum do hospitality.

It always used to make life special when visitors came to stay, when I was a kid. It was not just that they were special, or that we lived on our own out on a farm. It’s because we all were on our best behaviour, even the visitors.

Hospitality makes us deliberate about how we are living. It makes us lift our game. It can be very hard work, not easy. We had a house guest for nearly two years. It was not always easy. There were tensions. It was expensive in money, and in spiritual energy. There were times when it hurt, and was almost too much. It put a lot of strain on my relationship with my wife. But we are the better for it. I am more understanding, more tolerant, even a little less judgemental. I owe that young person a whole lot.

This reading today is not about travelling. It’s about hospitality from the other side, from the view of the guest. Do you understand that hospitality is a two sided thing? We give it, but guest also gives to us. They too have a responsibility.

So Jesus says to them, “Don’t shop around for the best place to live. “If if anyone is there who shares in peace.” And don’t be fussy and put on airs, or ask for special treatment. “Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid.” This asks a great deal of the guest. It’s not just saying eat fish, when like me, you detest fish and it makes you want to vomit. It’s saying eat the unclean food that your religion has taught you will separate you from God if you eat it.”

Be honoured that you are a guest, but remember why you are here. You bring peace to this house. You bring the kingdom near. Peace to this house is not just a casual saying like “G’day howdy?” It’s a deliberate blessing of shalom, all the peace of God, upon a place. It is a prayer that justice, peace, health and healing, joy and goodness will transform that household into a little patch of heaven. This is the news Jesus sent the seventy people out with, that the Kingdom of Heaven was coming near.

The reason that Luke shows Jesus constantly involved in hospitality and meals is that hospitality is the beginning of the Kingdom of God. Think about all the things we associate with the Kingdom and the coming of the Messiah. There will be justice and peace. The weak will be protected. The rich will be restrained. The wolf and the lamb will live together. The last will be first and the first last. These are all the marks of an hospitable household.

This is why it is so important to be hospitable as a church here at Greenacres, and to use our space for people of like spirit. There is a very real sense that hospitality is the beginning of the Kingdom of God. It brings the kingdom near to us and to Greenacres. Being hospitable is practicing Kingdom. When we are being hospitable, and we have to lift our game to honour our guests, and be polite even when they annoy us or do things differently... then we are practicing living like Jesus would live. And when we are doing that, we are bringing people into Jesus presence.

We should strive to make our building, and our paintwork, and our shop and kitchen layout, and our behaviour the best it can be... just as we would if it was Jesus we were making room for. By treating our visitors like they are Jesus we will find Jesus has been near us.

There’s one thing different between Jesus’ time and us. In Jesus’ time people were stuck in their village, for the most part. In our time, in Australia, and in Greenacres with all the infilling and new housing and transitory people, the problem is that people have nowhere to belong and to be. There is an opportunity for us to be a new kind of evangelist. We can be the people who stay here. The people who offer a place to belong; who offer Peace and a taste of Kingdom to all the people who are on the move and never quite have a place to call home. Amen


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