January 29, 2023. Sermon Title: “Hosting, Who?”

First Mennonite Church

January 29, 2023

Hosting, Who”

Text: John 14:23-27

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Jesus was around the table eating his Last Supper with his disciples when he spoke these words. The occasion was full of anticipation, anxiety, fear, and solemnity. Jesus had just washed the feet of his disciples, and predicted Judas’ betrayal, and Peter’s denial. But, the conversation around the table was just starting. The disciples could feel the seriousness in Jesus’ voice and the power of his words piercing their hearts. Their awareness about the prospects of not having Jesus anymore, only became clearer by the hour as Jesus spoke that night.

Therefore, beginning in chapter 14, Jesus changes the tone of his voice and of the subject matter of his conversation. Jesus begins to comfort and assure his disciples regarding what lies ahead once he is no longer with them. Although Jesus reiterates his departure, he explains its purpose. He is going back to the Father, to prepare a place and to come back to take his disciples to be with him. But in the time between his departure and his return, the disciples will have trouble in the world (16:33). However, Jesus’ going to the Father is also for the purpose of sending the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who will remind them of Jesus’ words, invest them with power, and guide them to all truth.

Then, Jesus speaks the words we just read. “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching,” Jesus tells his disciples. Jesus expected that despite of him being away, those who he had lived with for three and a half years will continue living according to what he has taught them. Although his time with his disciples was coming to a close, Jesus knew that his words have set roots in the heart of the disciples to the point that their lives could be shaped by them. Thus, their love and loyalty for Jesus would be evidenced by their obedience to his words. The disciples’ commitment to Jesus would not cease after he had gone. And what is more, as the disciples obey Jesus’ teaching, they will become the objects of the Father’s love. Jesus promises his disciples that obedience to his words will be honored by the Father. But not only that, Jesus promises: “we will come to them and make our home with them.” 

The Greek word, “meno” is translated “to abide,” “to remain,” “to continue,” “to stay” “to lodge,” to dwell” or “to make home.”

Jesus promises that obeying his words will make each of us into hosts to the Divine presence. “We will come and make our home with them,” Jesus says.

Most likely, at one time or another, you have been a host to someone and also a guest somewhere or to someone. In my travels to many places around the world, I have had amazing hosts. I remember the time I went to Bogota, Colombia. On the way to Bogota from Belize, the plane had a long delay in Costa Rica. I arrived in Colombia around midnight, when I should have arrived in the early evening. I was staying overnight in Bogota, at the home of a member of the Mennonite Church in that city. From there I was going to Cachipay, a Mennonite Retreat Center in the mountains in Colombia. My host prepared a special dinner that night, but because of my late arrival, I missed eating together with the family, I was told. However, before I arrived at their place, she got up, in the middle of the night, to serve me dinner and to accompany me as I ate. Of course, at that late hour, it was difficult for me to eat a regular meal, which she graciously understood. Early, the following day, she prepared a delicious breakfast for me before I was picked up to go to the retreat center.

Another experience of warm hospitality I had was in Myanmar (Burma). In 2000, I took a four-week summer course at the Myanmar Theological Institute. On one weekend, my companion, a professor at one of the Mennonite Universities in the Midwest, and I were taken to a village in the beautiful countryside. The village was a Christian communal. Everything belongs to the village and the people worked together and had everything in common. Not all of the members were blood-related. I should say that the standard of living in that village was way better off than most smaller towns or villages I saw in Myanmar.

When the people knew that we were coming to visit them that Sunday, a large group of men, women, and children went to the entrance of the village and waited for our arrival to welcome us with dancing, and singing, and to give us garlands of flowers to wear. After the worship service, we ate together and then they gave us a tour around the village. 

I have also had experiences where I did not feel quite welcome. Once, I was on a fundraising tour on the east coast here in the US, This fundraiser tour was for the seminary in Guatemala that serves all the Mennonite conferences in Central America and the Caribbean. One evening, I and my other Latin-American friend who was the president of the seminary were “invited” to have dinner at a couple’s home. However, when we arrived at the home at the appointed time, I saw that only one of the two was there. I noticed that our host seemed tense and nervous. To say the least, not only was dinner cold and there was no dessert, but what followed was even worse. My friend and I were personally accused of financial mismanagement and abuse of power in the seminary. Where this person got all that information, I do not know. I was in disbelief at what was happening and felt humiliated at what we were being accused of doing. To begin with, neither he nor I handle in any way the finances of the institution. We were sent to make appeals on behalf of the institution for its ministry.

How good of a host are you? What has been your experience of being a guest to someone? In the last two years, our family has hosted people for 10 days up to 2 months in our home. We as a family do our best to make sure everyone who comes by or stays with us feels welcomed and part of the family.

According to Biblical scholar Andre Brower Latz the word “abide” (“make our home with”) is John’s “preferred and primary” way to characterize discipleship. The model for this relationship is the intimacy Jesus has with the Father. It is exemplified by Jesus’ total surrender and obedience to his Father. (John 5:19, 20). Jesus only does what he hears from the Father, and he only speaks what he hears from the Father. Thus, to be a disciple of Jesus, one must act as he acted and speak as he spoke. A disciple imitates his or her teacher, in other words, abides by the same example as the teacher.

In light of Jesus’ promise of making a home in you, how do you gauge or measure your hospitality to him? We will come and make our home with them, Jesus says. The God who cannot be contained by the heavens is offering to be our guest. He wants to make his home in us. He wants to be our special guest, not only on Sundays but for the whole week. Do you put him in a room and leave him there? Do you, as you do with your best friend, spend time in conversation and openness?

It is only so that the following promise he makes to his disciple becomes real and effective in us, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Let us hear once again the promise:

 “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”  Amen!