Our theme for this year is Welcome home and there’s a good reason for it. I pray regularly that God will bring into our church the hurting, the lost, the lonely, and the broken. What these people will need most is: love, care, support, understanding, acceptance, friendship, and rules. These are the things that a good home provides and they are also what our church can deliver. But it will mean that we will have to be very clear about the rules for achieving this because hurting, lost, lonely, and broken people are all too often hardened, bitter, self-pitying, and very negative people who don’t live with ‘house rules’. When Paul wrote to the Ephesians he went to great length to explain to them what the church was, what people could expect from church, how a church was led, how a church helped a believer to grow and become like Christ, and the rules for living within the ‘household of God’.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God Ephesians 2:19
HELPING THE HURTING,LOST, LONELY, CONFUSED, FRIENDLESS, & BROKEN
If you’ve fostered a child, you’ll understand what I’m saying. Children who are made wards-of-the-State have often been hurt in unimaginable ways and quite possibly have never experienced true love. When foster parents offer to take in such a child, it is often heart-breaking for all concerned. A child who is hurting, lost, lonely, confused, friendless and broken, is hard work—just ask any foster parent who has attempted it!
in whom [Christ] the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:21-22
When Paul wrote to the Ephesians he was writing to a church comprised of Jews and Gentiles who saw the world very differently and came from radically different backgrounds, and often didn’t get on very well to put it mildly. But Paul tells them that Jesus has now “broken down the wall of hostility between them” and brought them together into the church.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility Ephesians 2:13-14
While Jewish converts were familiar with God’s moral laws and even His instructions for how a family should function, these Gentile converts in the Ephesians were not. Paul later tells the Ephesians that when it comes to selecting elders, you should only consider the candidates who “have one wife” and “have their household in order”. This gives us a clue that there were possibly many in the Ephesian church who, in typical Roman practice, may have been married to several wives (polygamy) and quite probably had several ‘concubines’ (‘sex-slaves’). In setting the church in order, Paul describes what families should look like: parents who love each other; parents who love their children; children who obey their parents; fathers who teach their children about life and God; and how the family unit is a bastion of spiritual warfare against the forces of darkness. And all the while, this single, celibate, apostle, has an even bigger picture in mind: what the local church should be like. Despite being comprised of people who have just come out of lifestyles of immorality or religious arrogance, he sees the local church as a big family where everyone must learn to live in Christ together (Eph. 2:5; 2:21; 2:22; 4:16).
In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:22
Paul’s strategy for healing the broken was to minister Christ to them by the power of God’s Word. This was because what the hurting, lonely, self-pitying, despondent, really needed was not what they themselves thought they needed — more attention, more popularity, better looks, more money, more wishes to come true — but the True Source of Satisfaction to their deepest and greatest need: Jesus.
In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit Ephesians 1:13
That He might sanctify her [the church], having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word Ephesians 5:26
THE POWER OF THE WORD WITHIN THE COMMUNITY OF THE CHURCH TO BRING HEALING
People who are hurting and consequently feeling misunderstood and isolated, often become very bitter. In the Old Testament there is a story about a school of prophets who were served a stew that was very bitter and tasted like poison (bitterness is indeed a poison and it causes hurt people to hurt people). They called on Elisha for help. He instructed them to take meal (a very finely ground flour) and cast it into the bitter stew (2Kings 4:41). When they did this, the bitter stew became safe and savoury to eat. This is a picture of what the Word of Christ does to a bitter and broken soul. He and His Word takes a bitter, lonely, hurting soul and transforms it into a healed, whole, and attractive soul. Thus, Paul told the Ephesians-
¶ Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Ephesians 4:25-31
HOUSE (of God) RULES
Based on the above passage we can see that the Apostle Paul gave the Ephesians some important ‘house rules’ for their church. We might summarise the house rules of Ephesians 4:25-31 in this way-
Speak the truth – leaders should not shy away from correcting the wayward
Don’t withdraw if someone in the church upsets you – if someone innocently offends you don’t let your anger lead to the sin of slander (especially if it was a leader)
Forgive quickly – unforgiveness gives the devil an foothold in a church to weaken its effectiveness
Be a contributor – both within the church community and in the world so that you can share with anyone in need
Speak positively about the church – let your words build others up not tear them down
Cooperate with the Holy Spirit – Christ has sent the Holy Spirit into the world to assist in the outworking of His plan of redemption through the church, therefore resist the Devil’s temptation to be a rebel and cooperate with the Holy Spirit in praying for your church (remember, bitter criticism and slander is your admission of prayerlessness)
In the meantime, please continue to take a moment to welcome those who are new to our church then be on the look out for those who may feel left out. This is what families do, especially church families, and it’s what makes a house a home.
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.