So, I come to this passage, and find that the Church is the place to belong: a place that, when operating according to Plan, becomes a haven of hospitality, a place that meets us where we are, and a source of great strength.
Let's open that up a bit as we look at this text. I want to show you what I mean when I say that ...The Church Should Be a Haven of Hospitality
In Acts 28:11-15
, the narrator, Dr. Luke, tells us that their ship left Malta and sailed up to the Italian peninsula. It is interesting to me that they sailed on a ship that had a carved figure on the front of the ship that was called "Twin Brothers," namely Castor and Pollux, the sons of the Greek god Zeus. God's plans for salvation were literally being unwittingly advanced by idols, which goes to prove that nothing, even profane idolatry, can stop God's plans for worldwide missions. So, the ship goes from Syracuse to Italy and then landed at Puteolia. It is there that Paul and Luke find some Christians. In their next landing, they will be met by Christians, but here we are told in Acts 28:14
that they "found" brethren, that is, followers of the risen Christ.
Upon learning of their common faith, the Christians of Puteoli take them in, and Paul and Luke are given not just lodging but a loving place to call home on their journey.
This is the great work of the Church. The Church is a place to belong as it becomes a haven of hospitality. It is a haven because, like Paul and Luke, the journey can get rough. The journey may include time spent with hard, salty old pagans. Some of you work with people like the idolaters that Paul and Luke sailed with. The journey may include skeptics and those who curse God. It is good that we are there to witness to these foreigners from the House of God, and we witness that they may come in and find salvation, but we all need a haven of Christian hospitality.
David sang, "Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation" (Psalms 111:1
When times were the most difficult, God's people of old, as now, sought haven - sanctuary - with others who have been redeemed.
The Church must be that place now and always: A place that welcomes us, takes us in, nourishes us and gives us a home. Don't you want that to be the kind of Church that we are? I know you do. So, it requires each of us to be that sort of Christian: a hospitable Christian, a Christian who is on the lookout for tired travelers, and a Christian who seeks to show honor to those who fight the good fight.
Let me be direct for just a moment. I have noticed that our community, like every community, has some weak points in it. One of those happens to be a sort of rip or tear that separates those who have lived here all of their lives versus those who are transplants; north verses south; black verses white. I won't bother to marshal forward evidence to prove what most of us read about in the papers every day. But Paul said of this sort of thing: "Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose" (1 Corinthians 1:10