Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC
September 11, 2016
Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
This morning I have a message for you about welcome.
To start I would like to welcome my cousin and her family who are with us this morning. It is always a treat to have my family come and visit. One of my favorite memories about my cousin Beth is when she was part of leading a dance workshop that my sisters and I attended. I could not have been much older than 10 or so, which would mean my older sister was maybe a teenager. The other instructor was trying to get those of us who were participating to really feel within our bodies the movement and to express that movement with all of our being. One of the exercises the instructor laid out was for us to imagine we are bringing something to be sacrificed to an alter. We could pull it or drag it or carry it. Maybe it was even something delicate to bring forward.
My older sister, Marie says to me “Tina here let me pick you up” so I obliged and with my body bent over her shoulder, Marie began the struggle of bringing me to be sacrificed. I don’t think that was what the instructor had in mind. She had a horrified look on her face.
Our scripture this morning, attributed to the Apostle Paul, is about sacrifice, love, hope and hospitality. Paul is reiterating to the. Roman community what he has said many times, that God demands our actions as well as our thinking and believing. It is not enough to say you believe in God, to think about God, to pray to God if you do not put your actions where your words are. It is the old saying “talk the talk and walk the walk”.
Let’s look at verse 12 “Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.” Contribute to the needs of the saints. Who are the “saints”? “In the new testament all Christians, not only outstanding ones, are saints (literally ‘holy ones’)”. In Paul’s time he and others would travel from community to community preaching about Jesus. In Rome there was a divide because of the tensions between the Christian Gentiles and the Christian Jews; tensions that would inhibit the desired support of the new mission in Spain. Paul is reiterating that the saints are all Christians. Not just Gentile or Jewish Christians but that all are ‘holy ones’. These apostles relied on the generosity of others to contribute to their needs so that they would be able to continue spreading the Good News. Paul’s messengers were often the strangers. For instance, Phoebe who was sent to Rome in Chapter 16 as a female “deacon of the church”.
Hospitality was extremely important to those who were traveling. There were no Holiday Inn Express’ along the dirt roads for people to pop into to sleep and awake up to a full breakfast the next morning. Nope, they relied on the generosity and hospitality of others.
Today I often think of hospitality as being polite and doing it when expected. Like hosting a party. You extend the invitation, clean the house, make people feel welcome and voila!... extend hospitality. But, is that what we are called to here?
“The Greek term that is often translated into the English term “hospitality” is the word φιλόξενος (Phileo Xeno). The word is a combination of two concepts that break down as follows:
φιλό (pronounced Phileo) is one of several words for “love” in Greek. [As Benjamin L. Corey states:] Greek is “a more precise language than English, classical Greek has a few different ways to express the word “love.” In this case, the word that is used means “brotherly love” or “to love like a brother,” and is how we get the name Philadelphia — the City of Brotherly Love."
The word ξενος (Xenos) which makes up the second half of the word, we render “hospitality” actually means “stranger” or “immigrant,” and is where we get the word xenophobia which is the fear of strangers/immigrants.
Hospitality is showing brotherly love. Loving all the holy ones, both inward and outwardly, even ourselves. Imagine true radical hospitality, what might that look like. Showing brotherly love to yourself, being kind to yourself when you mess up, acknowledging your flaws and working with them. Maybe it is a bad habit, or mentally you are too hard on yourself. Be kind to yourself, be hospitable to yourself and show yourself some love.
That is showing radical hospitality inwardly; what might outwardly look like?
I saw a video online about a woman who saw a man. It took place in Brazil, where Raimundo lived in anonymity for 35 long years. He was just one of the faceless members of the thousands of people who live in homelessness. He lived in town on a piece a ground between two streets; he called it the island. On the island he sat, his beard long and unkept, white, grey and black strands of hair covering his face. He sat among all of his belongings which looked like a heap of rubble to the passersby.
One day Shalla took notice of him and befriended the old man. She would stop by every day to chit chat with him, and one day Raimundo gave her one of his poems. He had always wanted to publish a book of his poems. She felt she had to do something. She told him she would create a facebook page for him to publish his poems, so that he could recognize himself as a man and as an artist.
Then an amazing thing happened. People began to stop by and visit with him. People said, “hey, I want to know you, I’ve always wanted to stop by but never had the courage.”
As if that was not enough for this man to have found some identity, his brother found him. One day Shalla received a message from this man’s brother, he had been missing for 57 years. His brother who looks like you or I, well dressed and clean cut and shaven said, “When I came to the island, and found a man, in the midst of garage, with no hygiene whatsoever, knowing that this person was my brother.” He suggested that he come live with his brother. “He [Raimundo] was the missing one to complete the emptiness we had”.
Raimundo did just that and today his book of poetry is going to be published.
We think of sacrifice as giving something up or bringing something to God, like my sister bringing me in the liturgical dance, but Paul calls us to be a living sacrifice. One way to do this is by practicing hospitality, practicing brotherly love. Raimundo gave himself hospitality by living out this phrase that he penned, “however bad the situation might be, never, never the man should consider it lost because no one can give guarantee that adversity is invulnerable”. Others showed brotherly love by seeing Raimundo and spending time with him as he stayed on his island among the rubble. And his brother lived into brotherly love by reuniting Raimundo with the family.
How can we practice true hospitality? How can we practice brotherly love? Maybe it is with yourself, maybe it is with a family member or friend, or maybe it is to a stranger you have never meet.
Wherever you find yourself, know Christ’s door is always open to you in brotherly love and is calling you to join him. Amen.
 Harper Collins Study Bible, 1911.
 https://sojo.net/articles/true-biblical-hospitality-loving-immigrants-strangers-and-enemies retrieved 9/9/16