Scripture Passage: James 2:1-10
Our lesson this morning comes from the second chapter of the book of James, the first 10 verses of that chapter. My brothers and sisters, do you, with your acts of favoritism, really believe in our Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly.
And if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in. And if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, have a seat here, please, while the other one who is poor, you say, stand there, sit at my feet.
Have you not made a distinction among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him.
But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? You do well if you really fulfill the royal law, according to the scripture.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors for whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.
Friends is the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Amen. So you got Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They tell the stories of Jesus and his first disciples. The Book of Acts covers the history of the early church and talks about the early conflicts with and the overcoming of the Roman Empire.
You have the book of the revelation, which I yeah, it’s there. And we read it, and sometimes we’re upset by it. And other times we go, I wonder what this guy’s talking about. The rest of the New Testament, that which Paul wrote, Peter wrote, James, John and Jude wrote, all deal with what it means to live a Christian life. How do you live as members of the church? How do you walk with Jesus? And for the most part, Paul and Peter and John and Jude and James are encouraging. But there are times they have to say, now, look, folks, you’re not quite catching on here.
The Book of James is one of the earlier parts of the New Testament written to a community that obviously has a lot of Jewish background. But James has pithy sayings to remind people this is how you’re supposed to live.
This is what a Christian is supposed to do, both when you are in church and when you are living out in the world. So James talks about being partial. And if a rich person comes into your church, how do you treat them and if somebody is poor, how do you treat them?
And why is there a difference? They should all be treated and accorded the same hospitality. Hospitality. That’s what I want to talk about this morning, and I want to talk about practicing hospitality to all. And I want to do it by telling you three stories and then asking you two questions.
So now you know how the sermon’s gonna progress. In another church, we had two different styles of worship, as we do here. We had all the production that you have to have with two different styles of worship. You can’t see I call them the booth people, but they’re they’re in the back.
And trust me, they make worship happen. They help it happen. They are the other musicians. They’re the other worship leaders and facilitators. They produce and promote and get our worship service done. And Kyle told me we’ve now gone full HD, so I expect to look really good when I go home and look at this.
But in this church, we would hire students from the college who were in the major of theater. They were learning how to run sound. They were learning how to learning how to do lighting. They were doing all the things they needed to do, because when they grew up, they wanted to go to Broadway or they wanted to go to Hollywood. And some of them have richly succeeded in that. We had a guy that started working with us. His name was Nick, and we gave him the nickname Little Nick because Big Nick was Dr. Nick, who ran our choir.
So everybody in that church had to have a nickname, Little Nick. And he worked with us for a little while, and we liked him so much. We said, well, Nick, we’d like to hire you and put you on as our production guy.
He’s the one that handled everything in the back, made us look good up front. Nick said, I’d love to do it. I’m graduating soon and I need some some resources so I can start working on my master’s degree and it’d be really cool.
I like you folks. I like working here. But there’s one thing you need to know about me before you consider hiring me. What’s that, Nick? Nick said, I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe in what you’re doing.
I just. You’re not going convince me if I come to work here. Don’t try to convert me. Leave me alone. I’m going to leave here an atheist. And we did what most churches would do in that situation, we said.
Come on, Nick. Come to work with us. Nick said, are you sure? Have you ever hired an atheist before? And the answer to that question is, yes, I have. I’ll tell you one day what happened to that one.
So we hired Nick, got him started. I actually kept him started. I had a Friday morning men’s group that I taught for 10 years. And we were really spiritual because we gathered at 630 on Friday morning, you have to be spiritual to do that.
And so I got the guys together on Friday morning and said, look, guys, we just hired somebody at the church. His name’s Nick. Be nice to Nick. Nick’s going to do our worship production. And, oh, by the way, Nick’s an atheist.
Don’t believe in God. Don’t believe in what we’re doing. So put your track literature back. Don’t don’t pressure, Nick. Just show Nick the love of God and Jesus Christ. They and the normal Methodist who attended the church just live their lives out in front of Nick.
They had to invite him over to eat. They would they would check on him from time to time. They were letting him live his life and they were living his life. And Nick started getting weird because I’d preach a sermon, he’d come up to me at the end of the sermon, he’d ask me questions.
They were just kind of generic questions. And we spent five years with Nick on our staff as a part of our worship. When the atheist left the last Sunday there. Nick said, Doug, I need to tell you something.
What’s that little Nick? Said I’ve had a great time here. But there’s something you need to know. Yes, Nick. He said, I’ve accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior, and I want to be baptized. What happened to Nick?
He ran into Methodist hospitality. He met a bunch of people who were praying for him who were not putting any pressure on him. They were not debating him. They were not giving him tracks. They were not asking him, how’s your spiritual life?
They were just loving him and accepting him and open their arms to him. And Nick saw Jesus in those people. Hmm. Second story. I did a wedding in the mid, middle 1980s, now some of you are going I wasn’t even born then.
And I rebuke you in the name of Jesus for saying that. I did a wedding in the middle 1980s in Frankenmuth, Michigan. It was cool, Phil’s going, no it wasn’t cool, it was in Michigan. Frankenmuth, Michigan. I’m married to Delta flight attendants.
And I’m not sure they’re married to this day because I was in Louisiana and licensed to do weddings in Louisiana. They were residents of the state of Florida, and we got married, using a Michigan wedding license. I think they might have been living in sin after that.
But anyway, I did it. And I’m coming back to New Orleans and we flew from Flint, Michigan to Detroit. And I had a three hour layover in the Detroit airport on a November afternoon. And it was raining and it was snowing.
And I was loving it because my gate for the New Orleans flight had a flight that was leaving before I left. It was going to a place called Columbus, Ohio. And I could sit there and I could watch planes go by and the weather change.
It was so cool, y’all. This story is so old. The airline I was flying on was Northwest Orient. Somebody going, which one’s that one? Well, it was old, old, old, so I’m sitting there, I’m just watching the world go by.
I’m having a great time. Windows all over the place, airplanes and a seasoned citizen sat down right beside me. This was the 80s, life was distant. We different we weren’t texting, we communicated with conversation and she said, hello, young man.
And I went, Oh, thank you for noticing. Hi, how are you? I’m fine. What’s your name? She said, Eunice Howell. I told her my name was Doug. She said, I’m on my way to Columbus. To see my grandson.
He’s two and a half years old, and I haven’t seen him yet. See life has changed. And I listened to her talk about her life. She was a member of a Methodist church, she was a member of the United Methodist Women.
She knew every UMW Bible study done since the 1950s. We covered all that. We talked about her son or daughter in law. Both of them were professors at the Ohio State University. And how proud she was of them and how proud she was of everything they had done.
And they had given her grandson. She and her husband had waited till late in life to have children, and their children had waited till later in life to have children. And she just didn’t know how many times she was going to get to see this sweet grandbaby.
And she said, do you want to see him? Now, today, when you show a picture, you hold your phone up, right, and show the picture usually and I’ll look at your phone, and if it’s better technology than I own, I’m liable to snatch it, make it my own phone.
But back in the 80s, we had these plastic inserts to our wallets that unfolded and you would have pictures front and back side. Eunice Howell was an expert. You want to see my grandbaby, and she flipped it out and flipped it down like that here unfolded.
And there was a grandbaby and she obviously was neurotic because it was in chronological order. Here is at birth. Yeah, birth got birth. We have baptism in a Methodist church, a Methodist. And we have four steps, first words.
We have first time dressing in Ohio state gear. That’s hard for me to say. But I got it out and she was so proud. And you could just you could feed off the anticipation knowing that this lady in just a matter of of an hour or so is going to see a grandchild she’s never seen before.
She’s going to get the hug that grandbaby and spoil that grandbaby. And they’re going to be tears and laughter and joy. And I’m going I don’t want to change my reservation and go to Ohio and see it. Windows here, Miss Howell here?
The ticket thing at the gate right here, this was back in the 80s. Have I told you this is an old story? It’s back in the 80s and back in that day. If you did not have luggage, you could check in at the gate.
They had to be on time. Usually they wanted you there an hour before your flight. But it was short of sort of a shortcut that you could do. Well, this this. Guy, a refugee from the 1970’s disco era, slithered up to the gate yawl he was in that that you remember the light green leisure suit.
I’m gonna get some of you to confess your sins. Yeah, remember. Still got it at home in my closet. Light green, y’all. He was wearing white patent leather loafers. He had gold everywhere. I mean, he had a Rolex watch with a face on it like this big.
He had a big old chain around his neck. He had his shirt unbuttoned two buttons too much, and he needed to button two buttons back up or get a weed eater in there and trim some things. It was no man.
He slides of me, said, I’m Billy Bob Baba. Not really. But for this story, he was. I’m here for my flight. Types in the name. And the ticket person looks at him and says, Sir. We’ve actually been calling for you for the last half hour to come check in.
This is a very full flight. You did not check in. And we have assigned your seat to someone else. We have another flight in a couple of hours. I’ll get you on it. Bubba went disco ball nuclear. He said, How dare you?
I’ve been down the hall in your Northwest Orient special person’s club. Because here I’m a special person, frequent flier, and you could tell by the aroma coming from him, he had imbibed many adult beverages while not paying attention.
He proceeded to tell this ticket agent how important he was. That he sold widgets for all the Midwest and that you could look just look at me the way I’m dressed. You can tell I’m important. And it was obnoxious and unholy and vulgar and rude.
And people started leaning in to listen to it. How far would he go? And he went on and on and on. And she was so non anxious. She was so pleasant. She was so deflecting his anger. He said, I want you to get me somebody down who can help me get your supervisor.
Yes, sir. Just a minute. She picked up the phone and a couple of minutes later here walked. Another female. Got two females now talking to Disco Bubba, and he is not happy and he lets the whole gate area know he’s not happy and he goes off on the second one with what he did on the first one. And he said, I want you to bring somebody in here who’s got some authority. I want you to find me a man who can do somethin. At about that point, I thought, hmm. Nobody knows I’m clergy and several of us are kind of looking at each other like, you know, we could take this guy around the corner there and we could pummel him because he has deserved it. I saw her get up. And she walked right in front of me. Miss Eunice Howell. She walked behind Disco Bubba. And she stood there at the desk. And she said to both ladies.
Can he have my seat? I’ll give him my ticket. Y’all that’s what happens when the Saints go marching in. Disco Bubba melted. He just went. He started apologizing to everybody who would listen to him. The ticket agents. The people at the gate.
He didn’t know Miss Howell’s story. He didn’t know he didn’t know what she was going to Columbus, Ohio, to see and do. He just knew a little old lady showed him hospitality. And showed the rest of us what turning the other cheek and going the extra mile and Christ likeness is all about. There’s a thief walking the streets of heaven. This thief knows more about grace. Than 100 preachers and a thousand theologians. This thief never served in the church. He was never baptized, he never filled out a pledge card.
He was a thief. He was the thief hanging on the cross next to Jesus. Who said, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom? And Jesus, who was being crucified because he had extended hospitality to everyone, to Jews, non Jews, Gentiles, you name it, Christ was just hospitable and offered them welcome and grace and love.
Said to this thief on the cross who could do nothing for him. Today. You will be with me in paradise. Hospitality. Invites people to come home. Hospitality is the shepherd who leaves the 99 and goes after the one. Hospitality.
That’s what we’re called to live and do and be in the church, hospitable disciples of Jesus. So as we prepare for communion here, my two questions for you as you think about your life. Was there a time or a person who extended extravagant hospitality to you?
And secondly. Is there somebody in this world who has, is or will? Share the story about how you extended hospitality to them.