More Than Mama's Southern Hospitality

I thank God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now.
— Philippians 1:3-5
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any [partnership] in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
— Philippians 2:1, 2
For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh and Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
— Philippians 3:3, 20
Yet it was kind of you to [have partnership in] my troubles. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only.
— Philippians 4:14, 15

These verses cover every chapter of Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi. Can you feel the depth of connection being expressed? The words in brackets are translated slightly different for the English reader’s benefit, but the root remains the same: koinonia (partnership, fellowship, participation). Wherever Paul found himself in train of thought, deep connection was close at hand. This is a reality that plays itself out within Christianity. At this point, those who are theologically inclined will gravitate to a discussion on the Christian’s union with Christ. Others with a pastoral heart will ponder on the lasting and real fellowship within the church. And still others might simply describe it as a sense of belonging. All of these things wrapped up together begin to reveal the partnership expressed by Paul. And this is where we’re heading this summer.

Mama’s southern hospitality was good wasn’t it? Your mama might even still be doing it! A simple internet search revealed Southern Living magazine’s six qualities of southern hospitality: 1) be polite, 2) good home cooking, 3) be kind, 4) be helpful, 5) be charming, and 6) be charitable. Now I consider myself a good Southerner, and this list just about nails southern hospitality on the head, right? And these things are not inherently wrong. I say y’all come back now, ya’ hear just as much (if not more!) as anyone around. But there is more to Christian hospitality. There is more to Christian fellowship and partnership. There is more substance, more difficulty, more reward, and it’s not about the food.

This summer’s sermon series on Philippians will challenge us to deepen our assumed southern cultural norms on hospitality. As Christians, have we acknowledged that we are truly known by God (Ch. 2’s partnership in the Spirit)? This is why we are partners in the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Ch. 1). It is because of these two realities that we find ourselves in an otherworldly community (Ch. 3’s citizenship in heaven). And it is in this otherworldly community that we begin to truly partner in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ (ch. 4). What does it mean to be known by the others around you? Who do you truly know?

If there’s one thing I will say about Philippians before we start, it is certainly more than Mama’s southern hospitality. Enormous doctrines held high by the church come into practical focus within the chapters of Philippians. Read it before Sunday! It’s only four chapters long. Notice those verses I quoted. Think on these things, and come prepared to see what God has for us in this new series. Mid-week blessings to all. 

Blessings to you all!