Study Guide: Making Space

Sunday April 21, 2024 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

In this sermon, Greg shares a second letter to the church of Woodland Hills that follows the form of the seven churches in Revelation. This letter praises the generosity expressed by the church, and it admonishes individuals regarding the need to live hospitably by examining how our time is eaten up by trivial and distracting busyness.

Extended Summary:

This is the second of three sermons where Greg follows the model of the letters to the seven churches found in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, and shares a letter addressed directly to Woodland Hills. This second letter reads as follows:

To the angel of Woodland Hills Church in Maplewood Minnesota,

This is the word of the one who is the first and the last, whose eyes are a blazing fire, piercing through deception to see the truth of all things. Hear what the Spirit is saying to you today.

I know the generosity and works of your congregation, and I rejoice. As a group, your willingness to serve “the least of these” has made you a bright light to your community and beyond. Continue to run this race with perseverance, for you are laying up for yourselves a treasure in heaven that neither moth nor rust can corrupt.

Nevertheless, there are some of you who, in your personal lives, are being seduced by the affluence and business of Babylon. As a result, you have no space in your life, or in the life of your family and friends, to welcome in the “outsider.” I call on you to reorganize your life around the values of my eternal kingdom so that you may demonstrate to others the radical hospitality I’ve demonstrated to you.

Whoever has an ear to hear, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

There is much to celebrate as a body of believers regarding generosity. This is illustrated by how people give sacrificially during fundraisers. But there is a challenge, one that is offered to us as individuals. While you may give money when we have fundraisers, it could be that in your own life, there is no place for “the other.” This refers to anyone who is different from you and outside your normal sphere of relationships.

The God revealed on the cross is other-oriented love. The triune God created the world to share his abundant eternal life with others. The word for this is hospitality.

In Greek it is philoxenia:

philos (love) + xenos (stranger/ foreigner)

It is the opposite of xenophobia:

xenos (stranger/foreigner) + phobos (fear)

Philoxenia is held up as a supremely important virtue in the New Testament. As we read in the focus scripture, when the Spirit of the hospital God is poured out, people become hospitable. They open up their home to others. That’s where people met for church for the first 300 years of the church. This is one of the things the early church was most known for. In mid-fourth century, Julian the Apostate (anti-Christian) complained,

“These impious Galileans [Christians] not only feed their own poor, but ours also; welcoming them into their agape, they attract them, as children are attracted, with cakes….While the pagan priests neglect the poor, the hated Galileans devote themselves to works of charity, and by a display of false compassion have established and given effect to their pernicious errors. See their love-feasts, and their tables spread for the indigent. Such practice is common among them, and causes a contempt for our gods.” -Julian the Apostate (361-63 A.D.)

Hospitality, at a personal level, was understood to be at the center of the Christian faith, and it, more than anything else, is what caused the church to flourish. This is challenging for us in modern Western culture. This is so because there are legitimate safety concerns. We need to use wisdom when we are relating to others in our homes. It is also challenging because we do not typically use our homes in modern culture for hospitality. We are not in the habit of thinking about the outsider. We pack our lives so full of activities that our homes are used to keep us away from people.

We need to look at our time and see if we are prioritizing things that are truly important. Otherwise, we will fill our days with trivial activities that distract us from life in God’s kingdom. We might feel like we have no time for “the other,” but if we take the time to think about how we spend our time, we most likely will find that we are filling up our lives with things that keep us from the fullness of the life that God wants to give us.

Reflection Questions: