B_oliveg“Hospitaliano.” That was the one-word motto that I was taught during my training as an Olive Garden server. I worked there for a grand total of two weeks. It’s not a long story, but it is longer than I have here…and it’s embarrassing, so I’ll save it for later. At any rate, I learned a word that I’d never known and that you won’t find in any dictionary. That’s because Olive Garden focused so much on the core value of hospitality that they wanted their own brand of it that customers would only find in the restaurant. Before reading any further, let images or scenes come into your mind from reading the word, “Hospitality.” Go.

In Matthew 25:31-46 we read a well-worn passage of Jesus speaking to an audience about who His real followers are. It includes the line, “whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me.” This passage is used many times in reference to missions – feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned, clothing the naked, etc. But would you have ever read this passage in reference to hospitality? “When you offered a drink of lemonade to a neighbor on a hot day, you offered it to Me. When you held the door open for a visitor at church, you opened it for Me. When you rode the shuttle and gave up a more convenient parking spot to someone else, you gave it up for me. And when you opened your home to a group of fellow strugglers so they could experience grace, community, and friendship, you opened your home to Me.”

We begin a new sermon series this week on fruit – the fruit we bear by abiding in Christ and being faithful disciples and the fruit we would bear as an effective church. To prime our pumps, I simply want you to ask yourself how we’re doing. Is hospitality something that comes naturally to you? Are you intentional about it? Would you consider your church hospitable? And an invitation: As a staff we are always wrestling with this. Because this is your church, please let me know if you see things we are overlooking. We want to do for all, that we might do unto Christ and bring others to His home.