Wedding Sermon of David Wiebe – Mary Voth
24 June 1978 by Rev.Vyron Schmidt
Today we have met together to celebrate the wedding of Mary and Dave.
A wedding marks a new relationship between two people; a wedding marks a new beginning – a certain leaving of the parental homes and the clear establishment of a new home.
Actually, Mary and Dave have each left their parental homes previously for school and for work and have established other places of residence; but with marriage a new home is clearly established and a new relationship. There is not only the aspect of “leaving” but there is also the aspect of “cleaving” – of being united together in oneness – one in spirit – one in mind – one flesh. A new home is begun.
Mary and Dave desire their new home to be more than just a home for themselves. They want it from the outset to be an open home, a home for others; a place where others can come and feel at home, and a place where the love of Christ can be warmly experienced and known by everyone. So this morning, since they have asked me to speak on the topic of Hospitality, I have titled this meditation: “Open Heart, Open Home.”
I must hasten to say that this title is not original with me; it is taken from a book by Karen Mains, the wife of a former pastor in Chicago. The whole book focuses on the ministry of hospitality; it is subtitled: “How to find joy through sharing your home with others.” It is a book which Elvina and I have enjoyed immensely and highly recommend to others interested in this important topic.
Mary and Dave, this morning I would like to touch on three aspects of hospitality: Hospitality as a responsibility, hospitality as a ministry, and hospitality as an open heart.
HOSPITALITY AS A RESPONSIBILITY. Hospitality is especially the responsibility of Christian people, those who belong to the family of God. It is our responsibility to be an open family. One of the clearest statements to this effect is found in Hebrews 13:2, in the New English Bible where it says “Remember to show hospitality. There are some who by so doing have entertained angels without knowing it.” Remember to show hospitality. This reference to entertaining angels is taken from the life of Abraham. One day as he was sitting at the door of his tent taking a little siesta at the heat of the day, he saw three travelers passing by. He jumped up, ran out to meet them and insisted that they should stop for something to eat; to be refreshed by his hospitality before they went on their way. Well, these men turned out to be messengers of God, angels. After they had eaten they told Abraham of God’s plan to give him a son and they also told him of their mission to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. This gave Abraham the opportunity to intercede on behalf of Lot, his nephew who lived in Sodom; he may never have had that opportunity, had he not been hospitable to these three unknown travelers.
The Apostle Peter makes hospitality clearly binding on all believers; when he says, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” I Peter 4:9. Paul echoes the same theme in Romans 12, where he says, “Share with God’s people who are in need and practice hospitality.”
Now scripture goes on to point out a special responsibility which we easily overlook in our society today; that is our responsibility for the poor, the needy, for those who can’t help themselves. Beginning with Leviticus 23:22, scripture says, “You shall not reap the crops of your field to its very border; you shall leave some for the poor and for the stranger.”
Isaiah 58 in the Living Bible says, “I want you to share your food with the hungry and bring right into your own homes those who are helpless, poor and destitute. Clothe those who are cold and don’t hide from relatives who need your help.” That’s rather specific – share your food with the hungry, bring the poor and destitute into your home, clothe the cold, help your relatives.
In the New Testament, Jesus picks up this same theme in Luke 14, where he says, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not only invite your friends, your brothers, and relatives, and your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a dinner, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.
Yes, with the fulfillment of the responsibility to the poor comes the blessing of God; with it also comes the promises of Paul in II Corinthians 8, where he says “It is in God’s power to provide you richly with every good gift; then you will have ample means in yourselves to meet each and every situation with enough, and to spare for every good cause…you will always be rich enough to be generous.” (vs.89:11). Yes, hospitality is a responsibility, and it is a blessing.
Secondly, HOSPITALITY IS A MINISTRY. When two people consider marriage, I believe that one of the questions they must face is, “How will our lives together increase our ministry for God” Can we be more effective for God as a married couple than as single persons?”
Hospitality is a ministry and it can be a multiplied ministry as you focus on it in your home. Hospitality ministers to people in a variety of ways. Some need food, shelter, and clothing, but more often than not, people in our society need a listening ear. They need to share their concerns with someone who cares for them; who will take the time to listen to them and to respond in small but significant ways.
Mother Teresa of India says that hunger for the human touch, for human concern, is greater than the hunger for food – and she ministers to the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, to those dying on the sidewalks of malnutrition and disease. She goes on to say that this hunger is even greater in Western society than in India and Africa, where the problem is material poverty. The human touch – a cup of water, a listening ear given in Christ’s name – this is an important ministry.
And this is the kind of ministry which can be strengthened because of your life together, your marriage. Together you can provide the food, the atmosphere, the spiritual and psychological support. Together, you can listen to the concerns and needs of others; and I believe that you will find this team ministry a strong one; for in listening together, you hear different things and think of varied approaches because you have different perspectives – the perspective of a man, and the perspective of a woman, as well as the varied experiences of your backgrounds. Thus, your listening and counsel will be enhanced as you work at this ministry together.
An interesting sidelight, when considering the ministry of hospitality, is the fact that the practice of hospitality almost seems to be inherited from one’s parents. (Now I know that this isn’t entirely true, but I do believe that there is some truth to be noted here). Your parents have an an important influence in your lives in all areas, Mary and Dave; but especially regarding hospitality, you have each witnessed something of that ministry in your own homes by your own parents.
I have known the Voth family for many years; your older sister Birdie and I were in the same class in school, and in church, etc., and so I’ve experienced the hospitality of your home. I can remember planning meetings, meals, Bible studies, you name it, all in your home. It was open and available to us as young people to use and to enjoy.
And Dave, it is my understanding that you also come from a family that was open to others; one which was willing to receive guests most any time of the day or night and make them welcome.
This then is an important aspect of the ministry of hospitality; an aspect that is simply picked up by one’s children – and the passing on of that heritage is a ministry in itself.
Karen Mains, in her book on hospitality which I mentioned earlier, touches on some aspects of this ministry idea in a little incident which reflects on the hospitality of her parents. She relates that the pastor of her childhood days came often to the home of her parents and that invariably he would doze off on the second-hand Mohair couch mumbling something like “This is one of the few places where I can find a little peace and quiet.”
Well, that may not be very effective visitation, but it was effective hospitality on the part of her parents – a ministry to their pastor. May your hospitality also be a ministry – whether it be the ministry of food, listening, or simply providing a place to rest.
Hospitality is a Responsibility, hospitality is a ministry, and thirdly, HOSPITALITY BEGINS WITH AN OPEN HEART – a heart which is open to the love of God our Father’ a heart which is experiencing the presence of God in daily life.
To develop an open heart of this nature, it is important to take time daily to be with God; to be with him in the reading of his word, in prayer, and in silence – a silence which trys to listen for his still small voice; his voice of direction, counsel, and presence. May you continue to grow in your experience of the reality of God and his love so that his presence e may permeate your home and every conversation in it. As Scripture says: may you be “built together to become a dwelling in which God lives, by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22)
You also need a heart which is open to each other. A heart that is sensitive and concerned about the other’s needs. A heart that responds in love to the other, even when it is inconvenient. A heart that is open to communicate your inner feelings and needs, as well as a heart that is open to listen. For you cannot hope to minister effectively to others without first ministering to each other, especially in the ministry of communication and listening. So take time for your own lives together, to build and to nourish each other.
Then, from this openness to God and your openness to your mate can flow most naturally an open heart and an open home to other people. May you sincerely be open to others, always seeking for that which the spirit of God would teach you thru the people and the situations which he brings into your home. Abraham, you recall, received a word from the Lord from the men he entertained. Francis and Edith Schaeffer say that the shape and thrust of their whole ministry is the result of the people who have come into their home; as he has studied to answer their questions, as she has prepared endless snacks and meals, and as together they have worked, prayed, and counseled with hundreds of people, they have found their own message an ministry clarified; their own lives immeasurably enriched.
May this also be your experience as you open your home to the Lord and to others. An open heart can lead to an open home.
In closing, Vyron shared the prayer found in the back of Karen Main’s book. I couldn’t find the book – it must still be in a box in the basement. However, I did find this prayer about hospitality on her website: http://blog.karenmains.com/blog/open-heart-open-home and have asked permission (pending) to use it in this post. I don’t know if it is the same prayer Vyron used or not, but I like it anyway.
Lord, thank you for having given Yourself in intimate,
You have been the Host to all creation.
Without a dwelling, You have contained the
whole world and habited Yourself in the winds,
the corners, and the depths, inviting us to be
at home with You. Beneath the shadow of Your
wing You bid us hide, and in the depths of Your
Being You shelter and refuge us.
Without meat You have nourished us.
Without beverage You have refreshed us.
By Your very Word came sustenance.
On bread and water without price have we been fed.
You have been manna in the wilderness of our lives.
Without a table You have banqueted us,
inviting us, yea, to be married unto You.
Over our heads flies the banner of Your love.
We are entertained with the mysteries of faith,
the songs of the Spirit, holy laughter.
You have garmented us in festal righteousness.
As we wandered in wastelands,
You sought us before we called.
You extended eager welcome
though we had scarcely knocked.
You embraced us when we were filthy
and oppressed and undeserving.
You are the Samaritan who passes not by,
Who finds lodging for us in the warm inns by the way.
You bake fish over coals, waiting for us,
though we have forgotten to wait for ‘You.
With broken hands You break the loaf of blessing.
Those same wounds caress our leprous spirits.
You do not fear to openly accept the intimate worship
of our harlot hearts.
You are the Host of all mankind.
Lifted up, suffering, without breath,
You yet extend greeting to all the masses,
“Come unto me…
You give us the mystery of Your presence
in this supper of the ages, this remembrance of
Your ultimate hospitality
Make my hospitality as unto Yours.
Be forever my archetype of endeavor,
My firstfruit of harvested goodness:
Love for the battered, misused child,
Grace to bind running ulcers of flesh and soul,
Eagerness for the wealthy without servility,
And for the poor without superiority.
Through eternity You have been and will be
poor, faltering, unfeeling me,
to be like You,
with breath-beat and soul-heart
to be given to hospitality.
May the Lord bless you in your new home.
NOTE: Vyron Schmidt was the Youth Minister at First Mennonite Church in Newton, KS throughout my high school and young adult years. He and his wife, Viney (Elvina) had an incredible impact on my life, from listening/counseling, to meaty Sunday School lessons, encouraging personal Bible reading (Quiet Time), scripture memorization and prayer. In those years I learned and internalized the importance of being open to God-at-work in my life, of keeping a clear conscience and living out my faith. I am deeply grateful to Vyron and Viney for their love, prayers and the positive impact they had on my young life.