And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.’ Luke 14:23
Many people think that a church is a building. We don’t. Church is a family. Our building is where our church meets – it’s our dining room where our dining table is set each Sunday with a banquet of plenty of food for everyone. And when we say ‘plenty of food’ we mean more than enough. And when we say ‘more than enough’ we mean enough for as many visitors as might turn up. It’s the kind of dining table where everyone is invited, everyone is welcome, everyone is noticed, and everyone belongs. This picture of church is beautifully illustrated by King David’s dining table and who he invited to it.
MEPHIBOSHETH MAY COME
When David became king of Israel after the death of King Saul and his son, Jonathan, he wanted to honour his friendship with his late friend Jonathan. He enquired whether any of Jonathan’s family had survived.
¶ Jonathan, the son of Saul, had a son who was crippled in his feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel, and his nurse took him up and fled, and as she fled in her haste, he fell and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth. Second Samuel 4:4
Mephibosheth was a paraplegic. But he was given a place at the King’s table.
So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king’s table. Now he was lame in both his feet. Second Samuel 9:13
We are like Mephibosheth—we are each broken—but we are each given a place at The King’s Table. Our church is a foretaste of The King’s Table. The King invites the broken, the hurting, the lost, and the lonely to come to His dining table each Sunday.
WHEN THEY COME
I’m praying that the lost, lonely, hurting, and broken are drawn to our dining table. I’m praying that they include the young, the very young, the older, the married, the single, the divorced, the widowed, the confused, the angry, the uneducated, the unemployed, the sick, the injured, the educated, the arrogant, the simple, and the influential. Mephibosheths come in many shapes and sizes.
This Sunday, please join me in welcoming our Mephibosheths to the Lord’s Dining Room and help them find a seat at the dining table.
Whenever someone asked Jesus where where He lived, He gave two answers. One of the answers referred to foxes and birds, and the other was an invitation to come and find out.
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Matthew 8:20
Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. John 1:38-39
After Jesus left His family home in Nazareth, it seems that for most of His public ministry, He had no fixed address. Even though He began His public ministry while living in Nazareth, the dear folk of home-town didn’t like His first sermon there and tried to throw Jesus over a cliff (Luke 4:16-28)! Understandably, Jesus decided to leave Nazareth and relocate a bit south to Capernaum.
And leaving Nazareth He went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali Matthew 4:13
Presumably in Nazareth He lived in his small family cottage, but where did Jesus live when He relocated to Capernaum? Quite possibly, He may have camped on the beach there (sleeping in the open was relatively common in those days). If you had been a resident of Capernaum, would you have opened your home to Jesus and His 12 followers? We read in the Gospel accounts that there were people who showed Jesus and His disciples some hospitality. But what did hospitality look like in the first century AD?
JEWISH FIRST CENTURY HOSPITALITY
Last Sunday night we heard from Pastor Tony that sojourners lived among the Hebrews. A sojourner was a temporary resident. God was very clear in His Law to the Israelites about how He expected them to treat sojourners.
¶ “You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. Exodus 23:9
Hospitality was not just a legal requirement for the Hebrews, it was seen as a privilege for an Israelite to host a visitor or sojourner. It was unthinkable for a Hebrew to refuse hospitality to someone in need.
¶ “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 19:33-34
This passage, Leviticus 19, is where Jesus drew the ‘second greatest commandment’ from when He cited, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Lev. 19:18) which goes on to state how the Hebrews were to show hospitality to a visitor. Thus, hospitality to a Jew meant: (i) providing protection for their guests; (ii) providing meals for their guests; (iii) making their guests comfortable with clean adequate shelter and rest facilities; and, (iv) a place to wash. Thus, people’s homes were centres of hospitality. For a Jew to truly welcome a guest into their home meant showing them this kind of hospitality.
HOW JESUS UPPED THE STANDARDS OF HOSPITALITY
Over time, the principle behind God’s command to the Israelites to show hospitality to sojourners and strangers became distorted. Hospitality became politicised. Rather than, as it was always intended to be, an act of kindness—it became a transaction. Jesus called this out when He taught-
¶ He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Luke 14:12-14
Showing hospitality was not meant to be done with a hidden motive. The only acceptable motive was kindness. Christ saw His Father’s invitation to enter into His Kingdom as the greatest act of hospitality ever in the history of the universe. Yet, He scolded those who were arrogantly rejecting it because they didn’t see what was in it for them! He told the proud religious leaders of that day this parable of the King who invited his guests to come to a banquet he was hosting.
The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. Matthew 22:7-10
THE PHARISEE’S INHOSPITABLE DINNER PARTY
But perhaps the starkest condemnation of what hospitality had become in the days leading up to the redemption of all mankind was when Jesus was invited to the Pharisee’s house for dinner. We must ask ourselves why would a pharisee invite Jesusto a dinner party? This Pharisee’s motive is somewhat revealed when a woman entered into the dinner and began to weep over and kiss Christ’s feet.
Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” Luke 7:39
Perhaps Simon the Pharisee should have thought, “If this man were a prophet He would know exactly what I’m thinking now!” because without saying a word to Jesus, Jesus responded to what he was thinking as if He had heard hi speak out loud. And what Jesus said to this Pharisee was one of the most loving rebukes you’ll ever read in Scripture-
Then turning toward the woman He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for my feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she has anointed My feet with ointment. Luke 7:44-46
HOW JESUS REDEFINED WELCOME HOME
We now live in a culture where a ‘home’ is a status symbol. But based on what Christ taught, a home is a centre for hospitality. Hospitality is what the members of a household experience from each other and then, in turn, express to others. Home is where people belong and can feel safe, secure, provided for, and loved. This is the essence of hospitality which Jesus identified with the second greatest commandment. Therefore our hospitality encompasses kindness toward those who are less fortunate to us. It involves courtesy, kindness, and generosity. It is my hope that each Sunday we can welcome people with hospitality and that each of our homes become centres of hospitality. By showing such kindness to others we are reminded of two interesting Scriptures with which I leave you-
¶ Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:1-2
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:34-40
A HOUSE IS BUILT BY WISDOM, BUT A HOME IS BUILT BY
All but one of our four children have left home. One of my children owns their own home; another is paying theirs off, and the other describes herself as ‘homeless’ (albeit temporarily). However, whenever they come and stay with us, there is a tendency to refer to it as coming home.
¶ By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches. Proverbs 24:3-4
A ‘home’, of course, is distinguished from a house. A house is a building. A home is where you belong. And we all need to belong.
God settles the solitary in a home;He leads out the prisoners to prosperity,but the rebellious dwell in a parched land. Psalm 68:6
Belonging involves being together. This is why the common family space becomes sacred. This is the place where the family meets together, such as the dinner table. It is here that the family prays together, eats together, talks with each other, cooperates with each other, and serves each other.
¶ “When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken. Deuteronomy 24:5
Pastor F.W. Boreham on the steps of the Hobart Baptist Manse in 1912, with Stella (his wife), and three of his children.
A home is where you can relax. FW Boreham was a pastor and a father of five children, who used to keep his shoes on at the dinner table if he was required to go straight out after dinner to attend to a pastoral duty. Each of his young children used to love finishing their dinner and then migrate into the lounge room with their father and climb up into his lap to enjoy one of his amazing stories. They knew, though, that if Daddy had his shoes on, there could be no lap-time story. But, whenever Pastor Boreham wore his slippers to the dinner table his children had reason to be excited for what would follow after dinner! Not only would their Daddy tell them a thrilling story (later, when they were older, he would read a classic book to them each night), he also gave them his undivided attention. Home is where you can relax.
Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29
In one of his “Man Versus Wild” episodes, Bear Grylls stated that a good night’s sleep is more beneficial than a hearty meal. I cannot recall ever having a good night sleep whenever I have been camping, let alone the no-frills camping that Bear Grylls is talking about! If you’ve ever been travelling for an extended time, you’ll know what it feels like to come home and spend that first night in your own bed. Not only is home where you can relax, it is also where you can rest.
And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. Mark 6:31
MAKING CHRIST OUR HOME
There are some beautiful parallels about what makes a home and becoming a devoted follower of Christ. In John 10, Jesus uses very homely language to describe a relationship with Himself. Being in a relationship with Christ is described as coming through a gate (Jn. 10:3) and entering into the home of the sheep, the ‘sheepfold’ (John 10:1). This can only happen if one enters through the correct ‘door’ — which is Jesus (John 10:7).
I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. John 10:9
It is when the ‘sheep’ (the follower of Christ) is placed in the sheepfold, their home, that they are safe from thieves and robbers (Jn. 10:8) and protected from wolves (Jn. 10:12). By implication, the one who comes to Christ experiences Jesus as their wall of protection from enemy forces and their roof of shelter from the elements of spiritual adversity.
¶ Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. Psalm 84:3
The local church is the body of Christ and therefore, we, too, are to be a home and a family for those lambs and sheep that Christ, the Great Shepherd, places in our sheepfold. As we meet together each Sunday — like a family coming together for their mealtime — we come to the table to enjoy a feast of God’s Word. This is a home-moment where Christ’s people belong; can relax in God’s presence; find rest in God’s grace; and be strengthened by the love of God through their brothers and sisters. This Sunday, welcome home.
Earlier this week, the Australian Federal Government announced that they had downgraded their projected 2019 budget surplus by two billion dollars. And with the Tasmanian government’s announcement that they are considering spending $40,000,000 on upgrading the Derwent Entertainment Centre to be able to host a Tasmanian based NBL team, there were some locals who claimed that this was a waste of tax-payers’ dollars. These two news items got me thinking. What would our economy look like if our governments ran their operations like not-for-profit organisations have to run theirs? If you’re not familiar with how we not-for-profits have to run our organisations, let me enlighten you.
Not-for-profits strive to do the following –
+ Make every dollar stretch
+ Keep wastage to a bare minimum
+ Depend on the help of unpaid volunteers
+ Pay staff minimum wages
+ Give generously to those in need of their time and resources
I’m sure that there are probably many small business owners who can also identify with these. (I wonder how different Government services would look if they were run the way that not-for-profits were run?) Having been involved in the not-for-profit sector for the past four decades in various capacities – churches, a community radio station, a Theological College, and a media production ministry — there are 5 key things that I have learned that make running a not-for-profit enterprise different to either a for-profit business, or a government enterprise, and I think these principles might help you personally as well.
WHAT YOU REALLY NEED, IS PROBABLY ALREADY IN YOUR HAND!
The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” Exodus 4:2
When God was about to tell Moses to return to Egypt and deliver Israel from the bondage of Pharaoh, He seems to have anticipated Moses’ unspoken question, “What with?” God’s question to Moses is the question I have to continually consider. What do you have? Like Moses, often my answer to this question seems grossly inadequate to the task at hand. But jumping ahead in the story, Moses did deliver Israel from Egypt (and his staff was with him through the whole process!). Often times we limit ourselves by waiting until we are fully ready or have all of the resources we need to complete the task. God told Moses to start with what he already had. After Israel’s exodus from Egypt, the rest of their journey follows this same principle. For example, when they constructed the Tabernacle, the Israelites contributed what they had. Interestingly, God had ensured that during the night of the Exodus the Hebrews were paid their unpaid wages (plus backpay) which included much bronze, silver, gold, and fine linens. When we read through the latter chapters of Exodus, we are struck by just how much bronze, silver, and gold the Hebrews contributed to the Tabernacle’s construction.
Speak now in the hearing of the people, that they ask, every man of his and every woman of her neighbor, for silver and gold jewelry.” The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. Exodus 11:2; 12:35
Later in Israel’s history, the Bible describes Israel’s occupiers, the Philistines, having vastly superior weaponry, and far greater numbers of soldiers. Their oppression of the Hebrews was cruel. Their situation seemed hopeless. But Jonathan used this principle of provision that we have seen with Moses and the Hebrews of the Exodus — he used what he had rather than sulk about what he didn’t! He and armour-bearer realised that they couldn’t single-handedly defeat all of the Philistines, but they could defeat some!
And the men of the garrison hailed Jonathan and his armor-bearer and said, “Come up to us, and we will show you a thing.” And Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Come up after me, for the LORD has given them into the hand of Israel.” Then Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet, and his armor-bearer after him. And they fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer killed them after him. First Samuel 14:12-13
WHAT GOD CAN DO WITH A LITTLE
This principle should not be thought of as merely an Old Testament phenomena. Spare a thought for the young boy who brought a few small fish and few small loaves of bread along to the local gathering of townsfolk where Jesus was speaking. When the time came for supper, Jesus told His disciples to feed the 15,000 or so people who had come out and spent the day listening to Him. Again, the task seemed overwhelming — and the resources seemed grossly inadequate.
But He said to them, “You give them something to eat.” [“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” (Jn. 6:9)] They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” For there were about five thousand men. And He said to His disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” And they did so, and had them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. Luke 9:13-16
It’s not actually the point I’m trying to make, but it’s interesting what Jesus did to the meagre resources He was given to feed some 15,000 people. (i) He organised the people in readiness for provision; (ii) He thanked the Father for what He had already provided; (iii) He prayed a blessing over the loaves and fish; (iv) He broke the loaves and fish; (v) He organised the disciples to distribute the provision.
Jesus did this same miracle a second time, but this time He started with more loaves and fishes (Matt. 15:34) and ended up with far less leftovers (compare Matthew 14:20 with Matthew 15:37). He then quizzed His disciples about whether they understood the point of the two miracles. The point that Christ was making was that God is often able to do far more with less to start with!
When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” Mark 8:19-21
WE CAN’T HELP EVERYONE, BUT EVERYONE CAN HELP SOMEONE!
Over the years I’ve tried to pastor people through tight financial seasons. This involves setting financial priorities. But occasionally someone will tell me that they can not live within these priority principles because ‘they cannot afford to’. Invariably, their situations rarely improve. On the other hand, I have had the opportunity to pastor some believers who have committed to live within the Biblical principles of finance. The foundation of their approach to handling their finances is the same principle that I’ve been highlighting: start with what you’ve got and be a faithful steward of it. ‘Stewardship’ means management, or more precisely, management of another’s property. One of the last parables that Jesus told before He was crucified, was the parable of the stewards (Matthew 25:14-28). Each of the businessman’s managers are given an extraordinary amount of money (a ‘talent’ is a measure of weight which equates to 25kg). At the end of the parable we hear Christ reiterate the principle that we’ve been pondering. If we were to paraphrase it, it might sound like, “Start with what you have and use it for God’s glory!”
¶ “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. Matthew 14:14-27
Some of the Care Christmas Hampers that our Care Team have put together for distributing around our community
Start with what you have, and be faithful with it! As a church, we have learned to stretch finances. One of the comments we hear a lot is – “You guys punch above your weight!” People may think we are flush with money because they misinterpret what we have and what we do with it, but the reality is quite different. While we have some staff, we are dependant on volunteers. And while we don’t make a song and dance about it, our church generously gives to needy causes that help people in need within our community. Added to this, there is much after-hours care that assists people where we can. But we can’t help everyone; but everyone can help someone. And that’s what we try to do. While there’s a lot more we wish we could do, and at time we don’t think we have that much to offer, let’s make the most of it!
¶ Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. Proverbs 30:7-9