Over the past few weeks we have been limited from sitting at the table and eating together, but what other ways could we practice hospitality? This week, our guest speaker Alireza Amani offers our community some thoughts on hospitality with a message entitled “The Fifth Gospel: Hospitality!”.
Ali Amani was born in Iran and in his twenties moved to Germany where he completed his undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education. It was in Germany that he met Christians who revealed Jesus to him, leading to his conversion from Islam to Christianity.
He was then directed to Canada where he served as a youth pastor and founder of an Active Learning Childcare Centre. Currently completing his MDiv in Pastoral Ministry – New Generation and Multicultural Church, he serves the Tyndale community as the recently appointed Community Life (Seminary) and International Students Coordinator.
Good morning, Tyndale family, here and online. George, I want to say thank you for creating a culture of honour, to so, thank people for what they are doing, the way that they are hands and feet of the Lord. I love to listen to story. And I love to tell the story. Today's message, the title,is the fifth gospel, hospitality.
Let me start with this question. Have you ever asked to see evidence, so that you can believe in something, or someone? I did. I'm a visual person, and I need to see things, that I can believe. As I was in Germany, as a Muslim, I had a difficult time to believe or understand some of my Christian neighbour, that they said, Jesus is the Son of God, or Jesus is God. I was confused. I was raised as a Muslim, and Muslim, they believe Jesus as a Holy Prophet, but it was really hard to choose. And I said, Okay, we even as a Muslim, they believe that Jesus is alive. Let me just somehow challenge Him and ask Him, I want to see you. And I want to ask you, that I might believe what you're saying. Guess what happened? One night, as I was sleeping, I heard an audible voice. And I woke up, I was half asleep and half awake. And I hear this voice said, "Ali, where are you? I'm looking. I was looking for you whole day." Oh, boy, I was so scared. I was hiding myself. I was shaking, even I really couldn't just turn to look at who is this voice? But because I was just battling with those questions about Christianity, and Islam. I knew it. I asked Him, I want to see you. And I knew it. That He is there. Anyway, so I was so afraid. And I couldn't see him. And somehow, I fell asleep.
The next morning, I woke up and I said, what was that? That was so scary. And even I don't know, if he's somewhere here in my apartment. I try just look at around and look at the rooms and , maybe he is in the kitchen. So making breakfast. I couldn't see Him. But I realize, I'm not able to see him. It's too scary for me. But I asked him I said, Jesus, I can not see you, because I'm scared. But can you make yourself known to me in a way that I can handle it? And He did it. He revealed Himself through my Christian neighbours, through the love that I could see in their life, and hospitality. I really appreciate Dr. Kerr message two weeks ago, she shared about Tyndale's vision, how it includes hospitality. Hospitality is very close to my heart, because I was alone and those neighbours opened their home to me, they listened to me, they sat with me and ate with me. I was so desperate to having a family, in a new place that was alone. With all that they did, I felt belong even though I didn't believe yet. God was working in so many different ways, as a gift that my Christian neighbours to reveal Himself to me.
Just, we reading John 1:18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and the only Son Jesus, who is Himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father has made Him known. I could see that they are in a deep relationship with Jesus, and I was able to see Jesus in their life. And that made me so interested to know more, and more about their, their life, and at the same time, so about what is the reason of their love and hope. But I wasn't sure, sometimes I had to ask myself, they are so kind, maybe they want something from me. But after two years, seeing that they are just loving and serving, and not expecting, and even sacrificing time, life, money. No, it should be something real behind them. So Paul says in Ephesians 4, one and two, "I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble, and gentle. Be patient, bearing with one another in love." My friends, live this out constantly.
But I would like to share an example, that it really touched my heart. So I had to go to a government office. I had an interview, and I was new in Germany. And my German was not good enough that I could really explain in detail. I was so stressed and tired. So I said, what can I do? The only thing that I could just think of was just asking my neighbour. So, the lady was pregnant nine months, and the husband taking care of a toddler. And that was, they offer ministry. And they said, we come with you and we help you. Anyway, they came to help me. I was, I felt so relieved after that. And I remember I went to my apartment. And I said, "Thank you, God for them. And honestly, God, do you know, I want to be like them. I want to have the love that they have, the love that do not expect anything in exchange. And the love is so, the love that is sacrifice. I can do that. But I want to have that." I didn't know that. I'm asking for Jesus love. I'm asking Jesus, come to my life. And that was something that I realized later. There are so many wonderful stories that we don't have time to say. I don't have time to share about that. But all those stories lead me to that point, that I started to pick up Bible and read, and read Gospels. The British evangelist, Gipsy Smith once said, there are five gospels, Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, and the Christians. But most people never read the four Bible, for, the first four gospels. There are many people that don't read the Bible, or the four Gospels, but people are reading your life and my life. So here is the surprising reality. You are the fifth gospel. Believers are called not only to defend the gospel, but also to present it. Think about it. Your life tells a story. To see a life is to read a life, which makes me think, what message are Christians presenting to the world? Is the message convincing enough for people to say, "I want what they have."
Maybe Jesus had this in mind, in His Sermon on the Mount, when he talks about us being Salt and Light, found in Matthew 5:13 to 16. He wanted to show his disciple how a Christians life can be a fifth gospel, in a world that is watching us. People are not only listen what Christians say, but also watch how they leave. Your life and my life are being read like a book by watching board. Yes, our lives tell a story. They communicate. Our lives are meant to demonstrate good news, in a bad news world. It is meant to be attractive, that can give others a taste of who lives in us. And today we have heard that how Tyndale community, work hard together for our comfort, how they are serving us, how they bringing the good news as they are serving. Psalmist says in Psalm 34, eight, taste and see that the Lord is good. This Bible verse, remind me the way that we went to grocery shop in Iran. I really enjoy watermelon. And sometimes it's very hard to just realize, just is it a good one or not, just I'm not sure, I don't want to buy and then go and be disappointed. In Iran, if you go to buy a watermelon, they cut for you, give a piece to you say, okay, just you can just taste. And if you like it, you can just get the whole watermelon. And this is a picture for me. When the world doesn't know about Jesus, when the world is just in so confusion, and so many voices. So they need something to see and taste, that they know that the Lord is good, that the God is good. And we can allow him, through working in our life, to just give a taste to them. That who he is.
COVID limits people to sit at the same table and eat together. But I wonder what other ways we could have to practice hospitality? And we have a God who is creator. We have a God who is creative. I remember, so my wife and I, so we moved to a new neighbourhood during the COVID time. And we had a desire to interact with neighbours. As we were in just our study time and just doing the life, we were very busy. And it was not possible because of COVID. I remember, we sat in our kitchen and look at outside through the window. And we tried to just get a sense who are our neighbours and pray for them. But we were not sure how we interact with them. I remember after a couple of times praying, my wife said, Ali, I feel I want to encourage this particular neighbour, and I want to write a card. But somehow we were so busy. And finally one day she said I'm gonna do it today, I feel I need to do it today. And she wrote some encouragement. And jus,t we just deliver it, they were not home. The next day we figure out that was her birthday. And just, this is the way that God can communicate, in a creative way, for us to be encouragement for people, and hospitality has so many different ways that we can even, in this hard time, be dependent on the Lord, to hear from them. To hear from, not only for people, from God, how we can be hospitable.
But let me just say, give you three takeaway, from what I experienced in Germany and here, how that it could be still useful for us. Those people who served me and they were hospitable, I realize that they had a deep relationship with the Lord, their intimacy with the Lord, the daily devotion with with the Lord, the mutual close relationship, and talking to him and listening, what he has for them. And second, they were not only sensitive to God's voice, they were sensitive to the community, to just hearing just what's going on in the community, and see their needs, and be equipped in a way, that if that was the gifting or not, to reach out and just help them. And you know, there are times there are needs, that maybe we are not gifted in that area, and it requires sacrifices, but it's rewarding. And that makes me thinking, so why the hospitality could be as a fifth gospel, because those friends, they were humbled, they laid down, and sacrificed, in so many ways their time, money, family, to serve me, to reach out to me. And that was a way that they could just bring the good news for me, that requires sometimes just consequences, and sacrifices for them. But for me was a good news because I could see Jesus, I could go back and read about who Jesus is, and what He has done on the cross. I had no idea, and I didn't want to read, but look at how hospitality could open the door for the gospel that we can just read. And we can present. And the third thing... Someone said that the hospitality is when people interact with you, they feel better about themselves. In other words, be people of encouragement, to encourage people, to lift up people, as my friends, they did it to me, in word, and in action. To see your life is to read your life, but your story is still being written. As the Apostle Paul said to Corinthians, you showed that you are a letter from Christ, written not with the ink, but with this spirit of the living God. And I'm so grateful for the fifth gospel, my German friends, to show the love and hospitality. And I would like, as we come to end, so I would like to pray together, that maybe just pray in a way that we just quiet ourselves and let God encourage us, let us to speak to our hearts, how he can be, how we can be creative to reach out to people and even if you are so encouragement, lets us that we just hear his encouragement in silent, maybe for a couple of minutes.
Heavenly Father, I thank you for your beloved Christian and children in Germany that they show hospitality and love and that lead to my salvation. And that affects my family, that affects my friends. And I'm sure, with your grace is gonna continue. Thank you. And I asked you to bless my friends in this community, and people that are watching. I thank you for, for what you're doing in their lives. And we are so in need and dependent on you. Specially in this very unique time to be equipped with your creative ideas, how we can be salt and light, and how we can be hospitable and reach out to people that they don't know you, but at the same time to reach out to the community of Your Beloved. So Lord bless us as we go and continue our day. In Jesus name. Amen.
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