Wait! What? “Therefore, Go! with HOPE Through Hospitality”? Often when we think of hospitality, we think of it through the lens of how we receive guests in our midst. But the reality is, we practice hospitality wherever we are, even when we are outside our home or church. We also receive hospitality. How we do both…offer and receive…reflects how we live out the calling of God upon our lives.
The call of God is active, and it compels us to live out the Great Commission: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age” (Matthew 28:19-20, CEB).1
Where in the Great Commission does it say, “Therefore, come!”? It doesn’t. It says, “Therefore, go!”
Jesus modeled the Great Commission for us as he sent out the seventy (or seventy-two) in Luke 10. These disciples went out in a vulnerable fashion—without wallets, bags, or even sandals. It was necessary for them to be open to the hospitality of those to whom they were sent. They stayed with their hosts and ate whatever was offered to them. They heard people’s stories, responded to needs, healed the sick, and shared HOPE by proclaiming the message that “God’s kingdom has come upon you.” Did they wait for people to step through the door of the temple? No. Jesus sent them out, to reach out and to receive new people into the kingdom of God. Jesus taught them how they were to go out and make new disciples.
These same discipleship paths are seen in the core process of carrying out our mission as stated in paragraph 122 of the Book of Discipline.2 We make disciples as we:
- proclaim the gospel, seek, welcome and gather persons into the body of Christ;
- lead persons to commit their lives to God through baptism by water and the spirit and profession of faith in Jesus Christ;
- nurture persons in Christian living through worship, the sacraments, spiritual disciplines, and other means of grace, such as Wesley’s Christian conferencing;
- send persons into the world to live lovingly and justly as servants of
- Christ by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, caring for the stranger, freeing the oppressed, being and becoming a compassionate, caring presence, and working to develop social structures that are consistent with the gospel; and continue the mission of seeking, welcoming and gathering persons into
- the community of the body of Christ.
The disciplinary paragraph may be summarized by the acronym HOPE:
- Hospitality—We go into the world in outreach and mission, offering hope through proclamation of the gospel, seeking, welcoming, and gathering as we offer (and receive) hospitality to (and from) those not yet in the body.
- Offer Christ — We provide opportunities for people to commit their lives to God through baptism by water and Spirit and profession of faith.
- Purpose — We nurture people in Christian living to help them find a true sense of purpose in life, learning what it means to live out their beliefs through acts of piety and acts of mercy, Christian conferencing, regular participation in the sacrament of Holy Communion, and other means of grace.
- Engagement – Through engagement, we again offer and receive hospitality.
Hospitality is a means for people to explore a relationship with Jesus. Through hospitality, we encounter and respond to the call of God and find a sense of belonging among the church body. This happens through relationship, when laity in partnership with the clergy live out Jesus’ mandate to “go,” to offer and receive hospitality, building relationships, listening and responding to needs, creating that sense of belonging and sharing the hope of Jesus Christ. It is how we begin to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
On Laity Sunday, we celebrate that we are all called, laity as well as clergy, to go and make disciples. We are called to be the church together in a world so desperately in need of hope. Therefore, go!