Reflections on fellowship and hospitality

What passes for fellowship in our society? For some, the closest they come to fellowship is time in a bar, with conversations lubricated with (in some, not all, cases) immoderate amounts of alcoholic beverages. Fellowship is sometimes event centered, such as a tailgate party before a sporting contest. Superficiality can even infect fellowship within a family. Time pressure and the addicting effect of electronic media can result in people eating fast food in the same room, but each focused, not on conversation but on the TV. When is hospitality extended? In some cases it is indeed a genuine expression of friendship, but too often it is a means to an end. It can be an effort to climb a social ladder or to make sales contacts.

You shouldn’t be surprised, because Adam’s fall has corrupted our whole lives. It broke fellowship between God and Adam and Eve. It harmed their relationship with each other (“The woman you gave me…”). Creatures made in God’s image need fellowship, but tend to go looking in the wrong places, seeking the wrong kind of fellowship. Where do you find fellowship? Or do you try to live in relative isolation?

Acts 2:42-47 describes the restoration of fellowship, both between God and his people and his people among themselves, a restoration growing out of the completion of Christ’s earthly work and his pouring out his Spirit on the church. The rich fellowship describe in our text grows out of an event–the death and resurrection of the Savior and his gift of the Spirit.

Not surprisingly, our text points you to the crucial foundation of fellowship: a restored relationship with God through the risen Christ. You nurture that, just as the early Jerusalem church did, by continuing in the Word, in the apostolic teaching. Along with that central means of grace go baptism (v. 41), the breaking of bread, apparently in observing the Lord’s Supper, and prayer.

Rich fellowship with God results in growing fellowship with your fellow believers. Some aspects of the life of the Jerusalem church seem to be unique to that situation (there is no indication of believers in other churches selling everything and having everything in common–although the selfless generosity at work here is evident elsewhere). Concern for one another, knowing one another and their needs, and table fellowship in one another’s homes are not only evidence of fellowship, they nurture it. How much fellowship and hospitality are evident in your life, in your home? They don’t grow without effort.

As we move into our fall season, the session of Trinity Presbyterian Church is working on providing some specific opportunities for growth in those areas. Twice a month on a Sunday afternoon or evening, there will be opportunities to meet together in smaller groups in homes (or the church building) for fellowship and to study a book together. Let me encourage you to take advantage of those opportunities. Like the church in first century Jerusalem, you live on this side of the cross and resurrection. Nurture the working of the Spirit in your life as an individual, as a family, and together as the family of God–because you are the body of the ascended Lord.

(Reflections in preparation for the message on August 22, 2010)

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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