Hospitality Evangelism at Resurrection!

Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon at Resurrection on September 30, 2012, the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost.  The theme for the day is “All are Welcome” and the scripture text is Hebrews 13:2, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”


Dear Friends in Christ,


Have you ever heard of “Hospitality Evangelism”?  We’ve all heard the words separately.  Hospitality is making folks feel welcome.  Evangelism is sharing the good news of Jesus with others.  By combining two pretty good words, hospitality and evangelism, we describe the wonderful practice of warmly welcoming folks and giving them the opportunity to hear about Jesus.  I believe that every one of us here has the call and ability to practice Hospitality Evangelism often. 


Today we have a wonderful opportunity to really shine in the area of Hospitality Evangelism.  This congregation, you and I, are hosting the Lutheran Revival this afternoon.  Folks from 4 other Lutheran congregations and folks from the community will be coming onto our campus.  Let’s all put our best foot forward, practice hospitality, and be warm and welcoming.  I pray that each of us from Resurrection will see ourselves as not just attending, but we are the hosts.  It is our time to be aware of the needs of folks this afternoon, to give them directions when needed, perhaps to let someone go in front of us in the food line, maybe to empty a trash can in the bathroom that gets too full, to share a bulletin if we start to run out.  Let’s simply do for others as we would want them to do for us.  Let’s do around here as we would do at our own homes if we were entertaining guests.  If we do so, I have learned from experience, our guests and we too, will be so much more open and willing to listen to the good news of Jesus that will be shared in word and song this afternoon.


Hebrews 13:2 expresses hospitality evangelism this way, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have entertained angels without knowing it.”  In Matthew 25, Jesus says at the end of time, he will say to those who showed hospitality, “Come you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” 


This congregation has a wonderful statement of welcome.  It comes from the 7 guiding principles that we agreed to over a year ago, especially  guiding principle #4 that says, “We Invite and Welcome All People.”  The explanation of this principle says, “We follow Jesus’ example to be boldly inclusive.  “All people” means everyone….no limitations…no exceptions.”


Since every congregation says something similar, we actually went a further step and voted to approve this further explanation of what we mean by “everyone is welcome”:  Resurrection Lutheran Church is a community of faith that celebrates the gifts of God that empower us to engage in the struggles of life, to care for one another, and to serve Christ in our congregation, our communities, and our world.  In response to Christ’s love for us and for all people, we believe that we are called to reflect Christ’s love by inviting and welcoming all people into our fellowship.  We do this without hesitation and without reservation.  More specifically, we do this without regard to race, ethnicity, culture, age, gender, sexual orientation, ability, educational background, economic circumstance, or any other factor that would otherwise separate God’s people.  We are all God’s children and we can do nothing less.


Pastor CeCee Mills will be part of today’s revival.  We remember her from last year when she was the revival preacher.  Pastor CeCee proposed something at our Virginia Synod Assembly this past June that was overwhelmingly affirmed.  We agreed to go back home and start having conversations about how to reach out to other races and cultures in our communities.  We agreed that the conversation would begin with the council and pastor and other appropriate leaders, and then would spread into the congregation.  Our Synod African American Team, of which I am proud to be a part, has put together study materials and worship materials for congregations.  This afternoon you will be introduced to some of these materials at the adult workshop with Pastor Mills and also in our worship service.


Let me conclude with a vision.  This is a vision that God sent to the prophet Isaiah a long time ago.  It is a vision that Jesus repeated when he visited the temple in Jerusalem during Holy Week.      God said in Isaiah 56:7, “For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.”


May that vision be unfolded in our midst.  May the  spirit of invitation, welcome, inclusiveness, hospitality and evangelism be with us today.  Thanks be to God.