30 Jan When Jesus Is Host
When Jesus Is Host
January 31, 2021
Calvary Presbyterian Church
Sunday’s service was pre-recorded due to the Winter Storm Warning. You can find the service on YouTube.
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The novel coronavirus has disrupted a lot of things over the last eleven months, but perhaps nothing has taken as direct and drastic a hit as the travel and hospitality industry. Airlines, hotels, restaurants, theme parks and the like have all experienced significant financial downturns as a result of our need to be socially distant, to limit our collective gatherings, and to avoid travel. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is itching to sit down inside a restaurant for a meal or to book a trip to somewhere wonderful. That day is coming, and I can’t wait.
Our scripture lesson today invites us to consider hospitality from a couple of different points of view. John the Baptist is with two of his disciples when Jesus walks by. Seeing and hearing John’s unadulterated worship of Jesus as the Son of God, the two disciples leave John to follow Jesus. When Jesus notices them, they ask a simple question: “Where are you staying?” To which Jesus replies, “Come and see.”
Jesus extends an invitation for them to check out where he’s staying which is sort of shocking when you really stop and think about it. And his invitation begs the question, what does Jesus’ guest house look like? It certainly is not his own house since we know from other places in scripture that Jesus does not have a home of his own. Perhaps he is staying in the first century equivalent of an Airbnb rental in Capernaum, and it is to this house that he invites his new friends.
This is an unusual situation in which Jesus is the host. Most of the time, Jesus is being welcomed as a guest or he’s inviting himself to someone’s house, like Zacchaeus. In the book of Revelation, he’s knocking on the door, trying to wrangle a dinner invitation (3:20). Here, as a host, he extends the invitation to “come and see,” and we’re going to use this invitation as a way to explore how we might act if we were in Jesus’ home.
If Jesus were the guest
But first—before we think about being a guest in Jesus’ house—let’s imagine that Jesus is a guest in our house. What would that look and feel like? First, there’s no problem with the wine. As long as we provide some water, Jesus can take care of the rest.
But we would need to make sure there’s bread. What about furniture? Do we eat on the floor? And what to do about foot-washing? “Uh, Jesus, generally we just wash our hands before the meal … with soap… for a full 20 seconds.” And don’t forget about setting the table. Plates, silverware, napkins, glassware.
Perhaps we’d want to find Grandma’s Bible, dust it off, and have it lying around casually on the coffee table, with a bookmark in it or opened to John chapter 3. Put up a cross? Maybe. That could be touchy … or even bad taste? Would you play cards? Maybe not, given how he knows everything which would put you at quite a disadvantage. What about gaming consoles? Or a board game like the one about the Pharisees and Sadducees, called Brood of Vipers—the one with tombs full of dead people’s bones. Jesus might like to play that one.
Conversation. What do we talk about? “Hey, did you catch that chariot race?” The weather? Small talk? “So, you were born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth, eh?” And what to eat? Oh, you have some leftover fish (2?) and five slices of bread. Perfect! Wash it down with a nice shiraz. And olives. Everything goes with olives. Figs. Crackers and hummus. Falafel, anyone?
And what about a prayer before the meal? Maybe the Lord’s Prayer? How awkward to have a brain cramp at the wrong time. You don’t want to sound like Sister Mary Clarence in Sister Act. “Bless us, oh Lord, and these thy gifts … and, yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of no food, I shall fear no hunger. We want you to give us this day our daily bread … and to the republic for which it stands … by the power vested in me, I now pronounce us, ready to eat. Amen.” Clearly, there’s a lot to think about if Jesus is coming home with us.
When Jesus is host
What, on the other hand, would we do if we were invited as a guest into Jesus’ home? In the gospels, Jesus acts as a host only three times. The first time is in this text before us today. He tells two of his future disciples to “come and see” where he’s staying.
The next time is when he gathers his disciples together for what we now call the Last Supper. The first hosting experience was at the start of his ministry; the second, just before he died. On this second occasion, the disciples ask Jesus what they are going to do about Passover, and Jesus tells Peter and John, “Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it” (Luke 22:8).
And finally, there is a post-resurrection scene in Galilee in which Jesus hosts a fish breakfast on the beach: “Jesus said to them, come and eat. And none of the disciples dared ask him, who are you? knowing that it was the Lord” (John 21:12).
So, Jesus is host three times: (1) when he calls the disciples; (2) before he lays down his life; and (3) before he leaves this earth. And in each instance, there are key words that accompany the event. The first time, in Capernaum, the key words are: “Come and see.” In the second one, at the Last Supper, the key words are: “Go and prepare.” And finally, at the third, post-resurrection experience, the key words are: “Come and dine.” I want us to consider what we might see and hear and learn if we accept Jesus’ invitation to “come and see,” to “go and prepare” and to “come and dine.”
Come and See
When Jesus says to Peter and Andrew, “Come and see,” he establishes the basis for our lives as Christians. Jesus is telling us that the ministry of the church is, at its core, one of invitation and welcome. This is what the church does. It invites and it welcomes. This is who Christians are. They are inviting and welcoming people. That means:
- We don’t coerce; we commend.
- We don’t impose; we invite.
- We don’t wrestle and wrangle; we welcome.
- We don’t threaten; we tempt and tease.
- We don’t lampoon; we love.
The mission of the church and our responsibility as followers of Jesus is:
- not to explain the Apostles’ Creed or the Augsburg Confession;
- not to ask people if they know they are going to heaven;
- not to ask people to make a pledge;
- not to tell people to conform to our norms so we’ll be more comfortable;
- not to judge them according to race, gender, political party, sexual orientation, their taste in tattoos or music or what team they’re rooting for in the Super Bowl next week
Our mission is to follow Jesus’ example as a host: Be inviting and welcoming. Three words. “Come and see.” This is all we need to say to those who are seeking a deeper, more meaningful experience of life.
Go and Prepare
As the Passover drew near, the disciples wanted to know what Jesus had planned. Jesus will be the host of their Passover meal, but he needs some logistical help. So, he asks the disciples to help him with transportation and venue. He tells them to “Go and prepare.” And this is precisely what the disciples do: they find him a donkey and an upper room.
In Luke, Jesus’ specific instructions are, “Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it” (22:8). In other words, not only are we to welcome others to the meal, we are asked to prepare the meal itself. Jesus is the host, but we are in the kitchen. Too often, the meal we invite others to sample is not very tasty. It is dry, under-cooked, over-cooked, stale, unfamiliar, doesn’t smell great, bland, over-salted or too spicy.
When Jesus asks us to “Go and prepare,” he is inviting us to thoughtfully consider what our guests will need and appreciate. And while that certainly includes food, it isn’t limited to that. We might also ask, how palatable is our worship? Is it easy for a newcomer to follow? Are we prepared for little ones who might make some noise? Have we considered how an outsider would experience our community, our online presence, our hospitality? Do we make it easy to engage with us in serving our community? Is our language inclusive? Even in these days when our worship, discipleship and fellowship is virtual, thinking about whether we are an inviting online faith community is important.
One interesting note: Jesus asks us to “Go and prepare,” and in John 14 he says that he, too, will “Go and prepare.” He will go and prepare “a place for you.” It’s not a quid pro quo, but the implication is clear: “You go and prepare a place for others and I will go and prepare a place for you.”
Come and Dine
Finally, Jesus acts as host in Galilee when he invites his disciples to eat fish with him on the beach. This call to “come and dine” is the logical, third step in the discipleship process. First, we invite; next we prepare the meal; and then, we call people to dinner—to sit down and partake of the fellowship and nutrients that will feed their souls and more.
It is the “and more” part this that is so interesting. It is well-known that business deals are often sealed over meals. Business dinners are occasions when planning, preparation, future-thinking, proposals, and decisions are made. It is no different here. There on the beach, with fish cooking over hot coals, Jesus is handing out jobs. The most challenging interview is with Peter. As they munch on tilapia, Jesus asks Peter about his future employment plans. You know the story. After a brief period of confusion, Peter gets his commission. He will “feed the sheep and the lambs” that belong to Jesus, shepherding the church, and it will eventually cost him his life.
As our host, Jesus is continually inviting us to “come and see” and to “go and prepare,” so that we can then invite others to “come and dine” with us. He is asking us to be inviting and welcoming people, not just when it is time to worship and not just when we have a building to gather in, but always, wherever we are, with whomever we encounter. Welcome and invite, welcome and invite. How might you live into this call from Jesus this week?
Thanks be to God. Amen.