What kind of Christian are you? Some Christians are deeply spiritual. Some others are incredibly practical. Some Christians spend all their time reading their Bibles and praying for miracles. Some others are so busy doing good deeds that they never have time to pray. There are even some Christians who are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly use. There are even some others who love their neighbours in their actions but never tell those neighbours in words that God loves them.
The story of Abraham and the three visitors has two great themes. Each of these themes demands a sermon. The first is miracles – the greatness of Almighty God – nothing is too hard for the Lord! If you are a very spiritual kind of Christian you will be waiting for me to preach on the theme that nothing is impossible for God! But the second theme is equally important. It is the simple theme of hospitality – Abraham’s example to us in the way he welcomed these strangers as honoured guests. If you are a very practical kind of Christian you will rightly be expecting me to preach on hospitality.
Miracles and hospitality. This passage speaks to us about both – so here is a sermon about both miracles and hospitality. Because the two go together. We need both. We need the power of God working miracles in our lives. But the door to Abraham and Sarah’s miracle was very simple – welcoming and giving hospitality to three strangers.
First theme – miracles
The God of the Bible is a God of miracles.
Romans 4:18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead- since he was about a hundred years old- and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.
God has the power to do what He promises. ANYTHING He promises! NOTHING is too hard for the Lord! Genesis 18:14 “Is anything to hard for the Lord”
Have you ever felt like you just can’t do something? You aren’t smart enough, or talented enough, or strong enough to do a particular task, or to do what you know the Lord wants you to do?
Have you ever thought that something just can’t be done, its impossible?
Maybe you are here and you feel like your life is hopeless, and your circumstances will never change.
Perhaps you have been praying for a loved one and it seems like they will never sort their life out, or that they will never get saved.
If any of these situations describe you today, You are not alone!!! But listen to what God says, “Is anything to hard for the Lord?” The answer to that question is absolutely not, nothing is to hard for the Lord!
We need to take our seemingly hopeless situations to the Lord, trust Him, commit them to Him, and allow Him to do what we cannot. There are many situations that are to hard for us. But nothing is too hard for God.
Bishop Graham Dow – “We can’t, God can.”
If today you need a miracle- remember nothing is to hard for God.
If you are in need of a special touch from God –nothing is too hard for God.
If you need direction in your life – nothing is too hard for God.
If you need encouragement, strength, salvation, freedom from the bondage of sin, comfort, protection, courage. Nothing is too hard for the Lord.
If you need forgiveness, and feel so unworthy to go to a Holy God, remember that nothing is to hard for the Lord.
Remember the words of Jesus. Matt 19:26 with God all things are possible.”
Luke 18:27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”
For Abraham the key to experiencing this miraculous blessing was faith. Somebody has said, “We do not discover the resources of God until we trust Him for the impossible.”
Hebrews 11:11 By faith Abraham, even though he was past age- and Sarah herself was barren- was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
Genesis 15:6 Abraham believed the Lord and it was credited it to him as righteousness.
Abram put his trust in the Lord, and because of this the Lord was pleased with him and accepted him.
Abraham believed God. But sometimes we find it hard, even impossible to believe. Just like Abraham’s wife Sarah.
Genesis 18:10 Then the LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?” 13 Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, `Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.”
When we find it difficult to trust God for a miracle, it is important to remember that God does not promise to work miracles just for our benefit and convenience. But God’s miracles are a part of His plan of salvation for us and for the world.
Like the escape of the slaves from Egypt through the Red Sea, and the way God led them through the wilderness for 40 years by the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. Like the way God provided manna and quail and water from the rock for his chosen people – all part of his plan of salvation.
Like the birth of Jesus Christ the saviour of the world!
31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will
overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.”
Miracles like the ministry of Jesus to those in all kinds of need.
Luke 7:22 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. 23 Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”
When a miracle in our lives is a necessary part of God’s plan of salvation, nothing is too hard for the Lord.
Second theme – hospitality
I say again – the door to Abraham and Sarah’s miracle was very simple – welcoming and giving hospitality to three strangers.
Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
Genesis 18:2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. 3 He said, “If I have found favour in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. 4 Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5 Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way- now that you have come to your servant.” “Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.” 6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread.” 7 Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. 8 He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them.
In our modern world of motels and restaurants and coffee shops, we can be tempted to think that the need for hospitality is no longer there. I’m happy to say that simple hospitality remains a vital tradition in the middle east and the Third World. It was one of the things that stood out for me on my visit to Uganda. Ugandan Christians show lavish hospitality even though they have next to nothing. Hospitality is not a difficult thing. It simply means welcoming people into our homes and into our lives. The conversation together is much more important than any refreshment we may offer. It is simply spending time together.
Hear what the Bible COMMANDS.
Practise hospitality Rom 12:13. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling 1Pet 4:9.
Hospitality is at the heart of Christian fellowship and pastoral care. If we are aiming at more pastoral care then we need less meetings and more and deeper friendships.
And hospitality is at the heart of outreach and evangelism as well. Paul wrote about his outreach to the Thessalonians, We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. (1 Thess 2:8)
In the dictionary, the word “hospitality” is fits nicely between “hospital”, a place of healing, and “hospice”, a place of shelter. Hospitality isn’t just an admirable social skill; It’s essential for anyone who follows Christ. When we show kindness to outsiders, we reflect the character of God. The Message translates 3 John 5 like this: “When you extend hospitality to Christian brothers and sisters, even when they are strangers, you make the faith visible. … It’s good work you’re doing, helping these travellers on their way, hospitality worthy of God Himself!
Remember the words of Jesus
Mark 9:37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”…. 41 I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.
It’s very important not to confuse hospitality with entertaining. Entertaining is fine china, and cloth napkins, and a dessert that took three hours to prepare. Entertaining is having the carpet cleaned, and the lawn mowed, and the kids out of the way and preferably out of the house so they won’t spill anything on your guests. Hospitality, on the other hand, is inviting people into your life, just as you are. Hospitality is walking into the living room two steps ahead of your guests and hiding the toys behind the sofa. Hospitality is sharing whatever you’re having, even if it’s just out of the freezer into the microwave. Hospitality is real life. Hospitality is treating strangers as part of the family.
So it follows that hospitality is humble. Because if we open up our homes and our lives to people, some of the messiness of our own lives is going to be exposed. And that’s OK. Hospitality has to come before pride. Not that there’s anything wrong with cleaning the house and putting a special menu in the oven, when you know that company is coming. That shows caring and respect. But sometimes, when you sense a need, or the opportunity for fellowship arises spontaneously, you have to be prepared to invite folks in regardless of what the house looks like. Because it’s not your house, or your furniture, or your culinary skills that people need most. It’s your friendship. It’s your conversation. It’s your time. We mustn’t let pride keep us from practicing hospitality.
Hospitality means friendliness to friends AND friendliness to strangers! The Greek word for hospitality is philoxenia – love for strangers. Jesus even pointed to the practice of hospitality as evidence that we have come to know him as Saviour, and a lack of hospitality as evidence that we haven’t. In the parable of the sheep and the goats Jesus describes the last judgment.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ’Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in . . . I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ …. Matthew 25:34-35, 41-42, 45-46
This is all about hospitality. Inviting people into your home who don’t normally belong there. Hospitality is a sign of genuine faith. That’s challenging. Especially if we’ve been neglecting hospitality and too busy to entertain strangers.
It was Archbishop William Temple who said that “the church is the only organisation which exists purely for the benefit of non members.”
Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
Hospitality begins with simply saying hello to people we don’t know. I remember the first church members meeting I ever chaired. I had been at the church for three weeks. As folk came in and sat down one by one I tried to remember all their names. I remember one man particularly. He was probably in his sixties, smartly dressed, silver hair, neat silver beard. I didn’t know his name. It wasn’t until after the meeting that I found out that nobody else knew his name either. Nobody had ever seen him before and we never saw him again. His first and last visit to that church was to come and sit on the front row of a members meeting nodding wisely and encouragingly for an hour and three quarters. And we never found out who he was or why he had come! It was spooky! Perhaps it was a heavenly visitation! Perhaps he was indeed an angel in our midst. Even now I can’t help wondering what wonderful blessings that church missed out on because not one of us had the sense to welcome that mysterious guest! Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
So we need to work at HOSPITALITY. That isn’t impossibly difficult! It only means inviting folk round for a coffee or a lunch or even just a chat. Making the effort to get to make new friends and welcome newcomers. Here are three things you could start doing from today!
1. How about resolving to talk to at least one new person every week.
2. Why not say hello to somebody you don’t know yet next Sunday morning? Make a new friend every week!!
3. How about fixing a date to have a coffee or even have a meal with somebody this week? Catch up with an old friend you haven’t seen for a while. Or get to know one of the new families who have been worshipping with us regularly for a while now. Don’t just think about it. Do it!
Abraham and the three visitors. Miracles and hospitality. We need them both. Especially as we think about stepping out in outreach and evangelism. We need the miracle-working power of God in our midst as we seek to share the gospel with North Springfield. But the door to Abraham and Sarah’s miracle was very simple –giving hospitality to three strangers. And God expects us to be just as welcoming!