When the immigrant comes and prays toward this temple, then listen from heaven, where you live, and do everything the immigrant asks. — 1 Kings 8: 42-43
Put on God’s armor so that you can make a stand against the tricks of the devil.— Ephesians 6:11
At this, many of his disciples turned away and no longer accompanied him. — John 6:66
Pairing Rich Readings
Each reading this week merits a year’s worth of preaching on its own.
Choosing to focus on just one text can leave the preacher feeling like something critical is being left unsaid.
Trying to focus on all three texts can leave the congregation feeling like they are being asked to swallow an entire meal whole without being allowed to chew at all.
Given the richness of the readings this week, the preacher’s task is to act as a holy sommelier, a wine steward, calling to the body’s attention the intricacies and complexities of what is being poured out before us. Naming what we are sensing in a way that helps us recognize and savor the familiar flavors paired in delightful ways is the task at hand.
One result of pairing these readings is the familiar scriptural flavor of hospitality.
Hospitality, of course, is the art of making room. This is the very nature of Trinity, who eternally makes room for us. Being hospitable becomes one of the defining characteristics of those in communion with Trinity.
If you want to experience the Divine, the church mothers and fathers tell us, forget finding people who wear robes or stand in the spotlight with 3 points and a poem, or who write books about the nature of God. Instead, find someone who will make room for you. Find someone who will make space in their life for you to be known, loved and fully present. If you want to know God, find someone who is hospitable. That’s as close to heaven as it gets.
Each of the readings this week calls the church to embody this divine characteristic.
1 Kings — Hospitality with the immigrant
It is a strange thing to have woven into the consecration liturgy of a national monument. Normally, these sorts of events are all about insiders, protecting those who belong and strengthening national identity. In his wisdom, Solomon inserts into the consecration of the Temple openness to the outsider.
From this moment on, the Temple stands in the midst of the nation, critiquing all nationalistic claims of exclusion and creating sanctuary for all. If the Temple fails to do this, it fails to live up to its charter.
This text is the genesis of the sanctuary movement.
Obviously, this is a politically charged topic. It is also one that most people will have already formed opinions on, and they are likely not coming to worship to evaluate what they already think. Most of us come to worship to have our notions sanctified so that we can go on our merry way.
So, a don’t and do:
Don’t equate America to Israel or fall into party politics. This is not about sanctifying nationalism or political parties. This is about the catholic (universal) church embodying the vocation of hospitality in all places and for all people.
Do help your community identify more fully with Trinity than with political party or national identity. Help them fall in love with the God who hears the prayers of immigrants and join your prayers with theirs this week.
Ephesians — Hospitality with discipline
Paul undoubtedly was looking at a soldier when he wrote the 6th chapter of Ephesians. In chains, looking through the bars, his body being disciplined by the tools of empire, he saw the disciplined soldier and he caught a vision.
What would it mean to be more disciplined by the ways of God than the ways of empire?
What would it mean to be shaped by truth, justice, peace, faith and salvation?
What would it mean to make more space in our lives for these things in the way of Jesus?
At heart, Methodism is a movement that intentionally makes space for the disciplines of the faith. We, “attend to the ordinances of God.”
How is your community doing at making room for the Means of Grace, and wearing them on their being as they move in the world?
John — Hospitality with God
John 6:66 (chapter and verse numbers fully noted) is one of the saddest verses in scripture. In the way that only the Bible can, it tells us the truth about who we are. We are a people who are open to God and God’s ways as long as God and God’s ways are basically like us and our ways.
When what God wants is not like us, or what we want, often, maybe most often, we simply walk away.
As stated above, most of us come to God seeking confirmation of our beliefs rather than conversion of our lives.
The hallmark of a disciple is one who makes room for their teacher’s way over their own ways. This is why Methodists pray every day, “Your will be done…” and “I am no longer my own, but yours…”
How does your community embody hospitality to God and God’s ways, making room for the ways of Jesus to take flesh in them?
Is there more room for God in the lives of people because of your community?
Wesley and those who follow Jesus in the Wesleyan way practice the way of Jesus until there is more room for God, neighbor and creation.
Perhaps this week, the proclaimed word can help create the desire to lean fully into the disciplined life until we, like Trinity, are known by our hospitality.
Perhaps then, “all the people of the earth may know God’s reputation and revere God, as God’s people Israel do, and recognize that this temple we have built bears God’s name.”
1. How does your community embody hospitality? How open is your community to the immigrant, to the disciplines of the faith and to the call of God? Where are you strongest, and where do you need more strength?
2. How can you help your people fall in love with the vocation of hospitality this week?