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We are and make disciples – Luke 10:1-16

Logo270x135I am talking tonight about the important value of our church: We are and make disciples. And one can say a lot about this. Discipleship has to do with the way we have fellowship with the Lord. It has to do with the Bible. It has to do with the Holy Spirit. It has to do with our lifestyle. It has to do with the way we reach out and care.

But I want to connect it today to one aspect on the basis of a text that brings everything together, which helps us understand that who we are and what we do in the process of discipleship can hardly be explained better as with the concept of hospitality.

So I have chosen one of the master stories about discipleship that puts the whole idea of ​​hospitality on the table, and specifically the hospitality of those that receive us, the people to whom we reach out. For it is through hospitality that we receive the peace and fellowship of God. And that is the way it was through the centuries.

We read Luke 10: 1-16.

10        After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

13 “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths.

16 “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

Abraham’s hospitality to strangers

I always enjoy to read the story of Abraham and the three men who came to see him in Genesis 18.  Because it shows just how important hospitality is.

Abraham sat drowsing in the breeze of his open tent in the heat of the day. Three figures suddenly appeared in the haze. Without hesitation, Abraham stood up, ran to them and asked: “Gentlemen, do me a favor. Do not just pass by. Let me first give you a little water for your feet. Then rest a bit here under my tree. You are here now after all, and I want to at least give you a piece of bread so that you can renew your strength for the road ahead.

And the three men did not hesitate to take up his offer.

Abraham ran back into the tent to Sarah, and told her: “Bake us a few roosterkoeke, say 16 kg’s.” That’s more than 64 cups of flour, more than a hundred roosterkoeke!

Abraham ran out to the herd and took a pretty young calf. The best and softest meat he had – one of about 100 kg. And he cooked it. He took butter and milk, the roosterkoeke and the veal and put it before the men down and served them.

And then, at this point, the story makes a twist. The men asked for his wife and made a promise: “About a year from now your wife Sarah will have a son.” And suddenly Abraham realized that God was speaking to him.

His hospitality turned into a meeting with the Lord! He held a barbecue for the Lord!

And in meeting the Lord, a wonderful thing happened. God brought Abraham and Sarah together again. Fot 24 years already they have been waiting for the child of God’s promise. Sarah gave Abraham her maid Hagar to have a child through her. But it just ended in rejection. No wonder Sarah laughed to herself and thought: “Will I have pleasure now that I am old? And with my husband who is also old?

But the Lord repeated His promise. About a year from now your wife will have a son.

And it was so.

Hospitality changed their lives! For ever!

What is hospitality?

Let uss reflect a bit about hospitality. What does hospitality means?  Hospitality literally means “love of strangers.”

Adele Calhoun describes hospitality as follows: “to be a safe person who offers others the grace, shelter and presence of Jesus.” Hospitality is to provide a home for someone, to welcome someone to your house, to open doors for people who do not normally come to you. This is the opposite of the “xenophoby” we again saw this year in a few places in our country.

And we know from the Bible that there are unexpected rewards if we are willing to be hospitable. In Hebrews 13:2 we read: “Do not neglect hospitality, because, being hospitable, some people, without knowing, housed angels as guests.

This important text in Hebrews 13 on hospitality probably refers back to Genesis 18, where Abraham received the three visitors. They were the “angels” that were accommodated as guests, and became the carriers of the promise to Abraham and Sarah, that a child, Isaac, would be born to them.

That this openness for strangers entails blessing us, we also see in the story of the men of Emmaus (Lk. 24). Their openness to the stranger they met on the way, seems to be nothing less than an openness to the risen Christ. And their eyes opened at the table to the presence of God Himself in receiving the stranger. They received Jesus by inviting Him in as a stranger. Powerful!

The stranger is thus Biblically speaking not a threat. The emphasis is laid in many texts in the Bible that blessing really comes through strangers. In fact, hospitality to strangers entails a blessing to yourself, as underlined by Abraham’s story!

Hospitality means to cross borders

However, it is always nicer to talk about strangers and how we should make them feel at home, than to actually reach out to a stranger. Is it not so!? It’s nice to talk about Abraham and how you enjoy his story, but to do the same, that is now really something else, is it not?

What should one say? What should you talk about? Where will the conversation lead to? What will it cost? Is it worth it?  Will they fit in?  Will my friends accept them?

This discomfort is increased if we really start hearing Luke 10’s slightly different message. For, this text does not talk about inviting people to your own home. It’s not about the reception and care of strangers in an area where you have control and you can determine the course of events.

Jesus is talking about going out to other people’s homes, to depend on other people’s hospitality, and not just with people you slightly know, but with people you do not know at all!  And not into your own home. You have to go into their home.

Abraham invited three strangers into his world, welcomed them, cared for them, and only then experienced the wonder of God’s presence. The Emmaus-goers invited the stranger from Jerusalem into their own home and only then experienced the wonder of the Lord’s presence.

But, here the Lord asks that we turn the tables, that we do not only invite people into our own world, but that we will allow other people to invite us into their world. He asks of us that we cross the borders to others, that we leave the secure space of our own homes and worlds and go to other people’s homes and worlds.

It is completely different. And it is not that simple! This includes the possibility of rejection. This includes the possibility of pain. It includes the possibility of getting involved in other people’s suffering. This carries the risk that you lose control, that other people have control over you, that you are dependant on other people’s mercy.

And this is the principle behind our value: We are and make disciples. This is what we mean when we commit ourselves to the values ​​of our church. We declare our willingness to cross boundaries to other people and to rely on their hospitality. We must of course be hospitable ourselves and in our own homes. That goes withour saying.  But we must do more than this. We must reach out to others to have them act hospitable to us.  We must also depend on other people’s hospitality.

But what is the gospel in this assignment, the thing we need to see what will give us the courage to do it? It is locked up in four things.

1.  Jesus sends us two at a time

The gospel lies in the first place locked up in the phrase: “He sent them two by two” The command to move across borders are given to friends in faith, faith partners, to the faith community. It is a key part of the assignment. As the Lord initially thought that it was not good that people should be alone, and gave them helpmates, so He does in the movement of the gospel across borders. He gives us spiritual friends who can go with us across borders.

I have already spoken several times about the power of the fact that my wife and I pray each morning for those matters that the Lord puts on our hearts. Its power can not be overestimated. We need significant other people in our lives to keep us to the mission the Lord has for us to cross boundaries.  And that my wifes does for me, and I for her.

We will never reach the world for the Lord on our own. We will never make the difference that we’re intended to make on our own.  I am not underestimating the power of someone who at one point will stand up and say, here I am standing, I cannot do differently. But together we are better. Together we do better. Together we achieve more.

2.  Jesus wants to meet other people through us

The gospel lies in second place locked up in the rest of that sentence: “He sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.” Jesus wants to meet others through us! Jesus wanted to reach the entire Jewish people with His message of peace. However, he had limited time in which he had to do it all. He could not Himself get to everywhere he wanted to go to. It was just not physically possible. Therefore he sent his disciples and a lot of His other followers to visit those places.

He knew some would receive him. Some would reject him. The job however had to be done.  And it would be done through His disciples.

The gospel in this, is that the Lord Jesus wants to meet strangers through us. He has a passion for the world, and if we do not start moving accross borders to strangers, the Lord’s passion for the world will not be fulfilled.

To use the Emmaus-goers’s story as a model. We cannot only identify with the Emmaus-goers in their story and with their experience that Jesus appeared to them. We must also identify with Jesus who are looking for people on the road, to talk with them, waiting for the invitation to move into their homes, because there the wonder of God’s presence will happen to them.

People can only welcome God in their lives, if we are prepared to meet them along the way, and walk with them until the opening comes that God can make a breakthrough in their lives.

And we do not need to be very intelligent to do so. We just have to have a heart for people, to listen to their needs, to engage with whatever we can offer, and wait for the opening in their homes and hearts so that God can do His job.

3.  Pray for laborers for the harvest

The gospel lies in the third place locked up in the command to pray for people to join us in doing the job, workers for the harvest. Prayer is the space God uses to do His great work. He gives us the privilege to be His co-workers, to be witnesses of how God is changing things in the lives of others, giving a call, giving a spiritual gift, so that they too can make a difference in this world.

Paul writes at one point that we must always pray (Eph. 6:18). What he meant, is that we must be constantly aware of God’s presence. Prayer is God Consciousness. It’s like breathing. Mostly we do it automatically. And then at other times you consciously focus on it. Likewise prayer. You are constantly aware of God, half automatically. And then when something catches your attention – an emergency, a joy, a need – then you talk to the Lord about it, and He talks to you about it.

This is the type of life that we must live ourselves, but it also includes the conscious asking for workers for the harvest. And not just for the easy parts of the world. Some people are needed in North Korea, Iraq, Somalia, Nigeria. And when you pray, there is always the possibility that the Lord wants to use you, or want you to help someone to get there.  Like it has happened to a few of our congregants through the years: Hugo, Corneille, Elspeth, Evelyn, Gerrit and Sonja, and a number of others.

This is why we are a faith community – to listen to what God wants in this world, and then to live for its realization. This is what we are all about.

4.  Go now!

The gospel lies in the fourth place locked up in the command to no longer wait, but to go now, as Jesus sent the disciples in Luke 10. God does not just want us to pray. We must go. We are indeed all sent and sending. We have to go and we have to help make it possible for other people to go.  We are and we make disciples. This is our DNA.

The question is then, who are our strangers today? To whom is the Lord sending us?

Well, we learn that from Jesus in His ministry. There was the woman who was caught in adultery (Jn. 8); there was the leper who wanted to be included in the community of faith (Matt. 8); there was the proverbial Roman who wants you to carry his equipment for a mile (Matt. 5).

These are people who needs the gospel, who do not fit into the “normal” circle of your community.  Some of them are poor and on the street, and some of them are rich and behind their walls in our neighborhood, but for some reason they are “lepers“, outcasts, rejected people, not welcome, or for some reason strange.

Hospitality thus includes the crossing of borders to people who are different than you, whether of a different race or culture, or even of a different faith community as you.

We need to bring peace, do good, live out reconciliation, because this is the message of the kingdom which Jesus brought to people who were stuck in their sin and apostasy.

Our missionaries are our examples

I close.

This is what each one of our missionaries did. They crossed borders.  In fact, they became part of the culture where the Lord sent them. Where Abraham was an example of hospitality to us of inviting others into the world we live in, Gerrit and Sonja, and Hugo and Jakkie, and Elspeth and Evelyn, Corneille and Sophie and all the other missionaries whom we support, demonstrate Luke 10 to us.

And it is their example that the Lord wants us today to follow, when we reflect on what we mean when we accept as our value: We are and make disciples.

  1. Jesus gives us to one another – two by two – to send us to other people that are on His agenda.
  2. He wants to meet others strangers through us.
  3. We obey when we begin to pray for that
  4. And we obey when we begin crosssing borders ourselves.

I have a simple exercise for you in the foyer – for the three minutes just talk tot someone you do not know, or do not know too well – as an exercise in awareness of what needs to happen in your life.

Go now!

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