Acts: Hospitality and the Gospel
In the recent sermon on Acts 2v42-47 we saw the striking devotion of the believers in Jerusalem to the teaching and life of the church, sharing their lives in daily generous joyful community.
Our temptation would be to feel burdened by their example with yet more things I need to add to my to-do list. But that just perpetuates the same problem, whereas the believers in Jerusalem saw the community of Christ’s disciples as their primary community - in which they found their identity, belonging and purpose in life. They shared normal life, their homes, mealtimes, as well as committing themselves to more ‘formal’ gatherings for instruction and prayer.
Therefore, a better place to start growing here is to think about what we already do in our lives that we can readily include others in. This is something that can aid christian discipleship but also (as it evidently did for the Jerusalem church too v47) forms an important part of everyday evangelism.
As part of this, I think we could do with re-visiting the practice of hospitality. It was a feature of the church as it spread out from the community described in Acts 2, and a number of places encourage hospitality (Romans 12v13 & 1Peter 4v9 or example) or make it a key aspect of the lifestyle expected of Elders (Titus 1v8).
It’s probably important to say that hospitality is different from hosting or from having a dinner party. Hospitality is ‘come as you are’ and ‘take us as you find us.’ It’s setting another place at tea time, it’s making the chilli stretch to another portion, it’s ‘do you want to stay for a cuppa?’ when someone pops round to pick something up. Many of us feel we don’t have much time - but however busy we are we need to eat. We might not have much money, but could we include others in our mealtimes once, twice or more times a week?
I recently read Rosaria Butterfield’s book ‘The Gospel comes with a House key’ (you can find it at CCW’s online bookstore at a discount price). It’s an inspiring read, full of stories about hospitality from Rosaria’s own life, including her own conversion to Christ and the life she and her husband (a pastor) now share with their neighbours. While our own contexts and capacities will undoubtedly be different to Rosaria’s, it is striking how ordinary it all is. While it’s not the story of a dramatic revival, we do see church family built up in Christ and the gospel shared with neighbours through walking the dog together, sharing simple meals and talking about the issues of life.