God comes to us in strangers. And lots of us don’t see him.
We love God only as much as the person we love the least.
Cooties How many of you remember cooties? Imaginary germs : Playgrounds - opposite sex. You may not have realized it, but adults still believe in cooties.
Though we no longer believe in imaginary germs, we do see entire groups of people and use words like: Creepy, Slimy, Sleazy, Icky, Rotten, Repellant, Lousy, Detestable, Offensive, Nasty, Awful, Bad, Distasteful, Loathsome, Horrible, Vile, Vulgar, Trash, Obnoxious, Repugnant, Gross, Stinking, Nauseating, Revolting, Beastly.
Our hearts are still filled with disgust when we think ‘How can people live like that?!’
This is the battleground of hospitality.
Question: Would you try on hitler’s sweater?
In 1994, psychologists did a experiment where they brought people into a lab and showed them an old sweater.
They told the participants that the old sweater was once owned and worn by Adolf Hitler. They asked the participants in they wanted to try on the sweater. Most people refused to put it on. And those who DO put it on report feeling dirty and uncomfortable when they have it on.
So we don’t believe in cooties, but MOST people believe at some level that Hitler’s sweater has been contaminated by his evil. And perhaps it will rub off on us.
It’s totally illogical but that’s how we treat moral failure.
We treat sin like cooties. And as a result of that, we instinctively keep our distance from sinners.
This was the pharisees issue when they would say ‘Why does Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners?’
If you feel like the cooties of the tax collectors and sinners will rub off on you, not only SHOULD’NT you eat with them, you CAN’T if you want to remain morally pure.
And so we separate ourselves and act like the pharisees.
Apple / Dog Poop
Imagine I take an apple and some dog poop and I touch them together. Then I offer you the apple. Would you eat it? Of course not. The apple has been contaminated and ruined by the poop.
And so if that’s true, then it should work the other way too: You touch the apple and the poop together, then the poop should be delicious. But contamination doesn’t work that way. The poop ruins the apple and the apple does nothing to the poop.
So when it comes to contamination, the negative is so much more powerful than the positive. - The impure is more powerful than the impure. The evil is more powerful than the good. The poop is more powerful than the apple.
And that makes sense with food.
Does that still apply when we’re talking about ‘contaminated’ people?
If Jesus is the apple, and the tax collectors and sinners are the poop, then it should be the sinners contaminating Jesus. - So in that case, the pharisees are right. Jesus is gonna get contaminated!!!
That’s not what happens. In this story, instead of Jesus getting contaminated, the ‘dirty’ people become clean.
And so we have some emotional work to do to overcome thinking of other people as something that’s going to contaminate us.
Now I want you to imagine this : How would you feel if I asked you to spit into a Dixie cup and then drink it? That’s disgusting right?
But how is that any different than you just swallowing your own spit right now?
The answer is there’s ZERO difference physically, but there’s a HUGE difference emotionally.
Boundary - own body.
It all has to do with the boundary of your own body. And long as something stays inside your own skin, you’re not usually disgusted by it.
But once spit or anything else leaves your body area, then it’s no longer a part of you. It’s OUTSIDE of you.
And what’s on the inside of you is perfectly normal, that same thing once it’s OUTSIDE of you is disgusting.
Think again about the words we use when describing people: Creepy, Slimy, Sleazy, Icky, Rotten, Repellant, Lousy, Detestable, Offensive, Nasty, Awful, Bad, Distasteful, Loathsome, Horrible, Vile, Vulgar, Trash, Obnoxious, Repugnant, Gross, Stinking, Nauseating, Revolting, Beastly.
Even if we struggle with the same thing, it’s gross when we’re talking about someone else.
In the book of Acts we see Peter battling with this exact thing.
About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. (Acts 10:9)
He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. (ekstasis - ecstasy) (Acts 10:10)
He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. (Acts 10:11)
It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. (Acts 10:12)
Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” (Acts 10:13)
“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” (Acts 10:14)
The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (Acts 10:15)
Torah - avoiding impurity - laws. Avoiding food & people - Wouldn't touch unclean food / unclean people
Not even into their house - non-jewish people - everyone else.
Back to trance over - Romans come up - come to leaders house. As soon as over - Romans come up (ultimate in unclean) - asking if he'll come to leaders house.
Agrees - ARRIVES
He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. (Acts 10:28)
This is a story about contamination. And who you prefer to keep at arms length.
On part of that book that really affected me was when he talked about what he calls ‘The Denial of Death’.
Average megachurch If you go into an average megachurch today, what you’re going to see if young, sexy people, with their thin, lean bodies, white teeth, gorgeous hair, incredible clothes.
Hardly ever does modern church highlight the elderly, the disabled, the sick, and the dying. Almost never.
We feel safer associating with happy, healthy people.
The book says that one of the places where we experience disgust is what he calls ‘Body Disgust.’ This is the disgust we feel when we experience: Body fluids, gore, deformity, corpses, bad hygiene, the very sick, and the very old.
We feel disgust when we encounter the fragility and failure of the human body because it reminds us of our own mortality. It reminds us that we aren’t angels or Gods, but people who right now, are getting older.
Hospice center - visit dying : Uncomfortable.
If we were to go right now to a hospice center and visit the dying, many of us would feel very uncomfortable with that.
We don’t need reminding that we’re all going to die someday. So we avoid often times, the people who need our help the most.
Sitting with a sick dying man is about as far from the American dream as you can get. But I can’t think of any way to be closer to the heart and ministry of Jesus..
“American culture is characterized by “the denial of death,” an avoidance to see, think or talk about death. Death is our dirty little secret. The problem with this fairy-tale world is that it is radically inhospitable to people who remind us of our physical needs and vulnerabilities.” (From the book:)
You can actually see this happening in the early church too. Look at what James says:
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. (James 2:1)
Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. (James 2:2)
If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” (James 2:3)
have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? (James 2:4)
Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? (James 2:5)
But you have dishonored the poor. (James 2:6)
So then what’s ultimately the problem with us?
Contempt is like disgust mixed with anger.
Studies have shown that contempt is THE most toxic emotion in a marriage.
At - grocery store - check book.
Hospitality isn’t just about welcoming sinners, it’s also about welcoming people you think are idiots. (From the book)
So what’s the solution to contempt? It’s one word: Grace.
It’s this free gift of unconditional love and favor from God. Grace isn’t something you deserve. It’s just a free gift. In fact, Grace is another word for gift.
And it’s about that Grace becoming real to you, and it’s incredible how when God’s grace towards you is present in your mind, how that melts away contempt.
Fear is one of the biggest issues when it comes to hospitality.
When we’re afraid, our circle of affection shrinks. We become tribal. We put up our walls.
You’ve heard the word ‘Xenophobia’ in the news a lot lately. It’s the fear of strangers. Here’s another one you don’t hear as often ‘philoexnia’ the love of strangers.
And fear is the power of the devil. - Says that in Hebrews 2.
How do you cast out fear? Love. - 1 John 4
So you have contempt, that is overcome through Grace. And you have fear that is overcome through love.
So how in the world are you actually supposed to DO anything with all this?
I was talking to my mom this past week and we were talking about the book and basically the idea was “Doesn’t this all feel kinda exhausting?!” - Like what am I supposed to take the one day I have off and go volunteer at a homeless shelter? Or sell my car and give the money to the poor?
The answer is: You CAN, but you don’t have to.
There’s a much more basic way of showing hospitality that’s not something you have to ADD to your life but something you do WITHIN your life.
Born January 2, 1873 in France
Died of Tuberculosis September 30, 1897
She was 24 years old.
One of the most beloved saints in catholicism.
Mother Teresa says that St Theresa was this huge influence and inspiration to her.
Pope John Paul II named her a doctor of the church, one of only 4 women in the history of catholicism.
He described her as “one of the great masters of the spiritual life in our time."
Why would she be deserving of that?
Well it’s all about this memoir, published after her death called ‘Story of a Soul’. It’s all about what she calls ‘The Little Way'. Young Theresa was going through a bit of a spiritual crisis. She wanted to do something HUGE for God, but her life as a nun in a convent seemed so limited and small.
From her book:
“I feel within me other vocations. I feel the vocation of the WARRIOR, THE PRIEST, THE APOSTLE, THE DOCTOR, THE MARTYR.
(She used a lot of caps)
I feel the need and the desire of carrying out the most heroic deeds for You.”
“I would shed my blood for You even to the very last drop.”
Which is difficult when you’re a nun living in a convent. - It’s not a particularly dangerous life.
She was more likely to die slipping in the shower than being martyred.
1st Corinthians. Well one day she’s was reading 1st Corinthians. In chapter 12 there’s the talk of all the different body parts that comprise the body of Christ. And she couldn’t figure out which one she was. “Am I a hand? Am I a foot?” And then she continued on to the next chapter, chapter 13, the love chapter. One of the most famous chapters in all the Bible: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast.”
Paul goes on in that chapter to explain that if you don’t have love, all spiritual gifts are meaningless.
And at that moment, she had her breakthrough. She wasn’t a hand or a foot, she was the heart. She was love.
(Prepare - communion)
"I finally had rest… Charity gave me the key to my vocation. I understood that if the church had a body composed of different members, the most necessary and most noble of all could not be lacking in it, and so I understood that the Church had a Heart and that this Heart is BURNING WITH LOVE…
Then, in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: O Jesus, my love… my vocation, at last I have found it… MY VOCATION IS LOVE!
Yes, I found my place in the church… I shall be Love. Thus I shall be everything.”
Very famous words “I shall be love.” - So for St Theresa, it wasn’t about huge oversees missions trips, no preaching at huge crowds, no being martyred for the faith. Just becoming love in very ordinary ways, right here, right now.
That’s why it’s called ‘The Little Way’ because it seems so small and ordinary.
Normally this kind of service won’t get you a medal. Which is why the Catholic Church recognizing St Theresa is so amazing.
(From the book:) "Want a real spiritual challenge? Want to be a radical follower of Jesus? Want to try something truly heroic? Try The Little Way. Try doing every small thing you do this day with great love.
Stop trying to be the gifted and talented eye, mouth, hand, or foot of the church, and try for twenty-four hours being the heart of the church.
We don’t need to die a martyrs death or ride off into the sunset like Joan of Arc. The pursuit of “radical Christianity” is open to everyone. We do the little things with great love.”
And this shows itself in the most ordinary ways.
Imagine a world where Christians imitated Christ, not in just the BIG things, but in the small, everyday things. - How we wait in line at the MVD.
A friend this week jokingly said to me “Please tell me we don’t have to love the people from Comcast!”
And that’s funny but SO TRUE.
Practice “The Little Way”
This week, pay attention to your attitude, words, and demeanor in small “insignificant” interactions. And work to act like Jesus in those moments.
Spend a minute thinking about what an average week looks like for you. Where are those small moments where you can practice ‘The Little Way’. Showing great love in small moments.
And take just a moment and let God speak into that and then we’ll receive communion together.