Aloha Friday Message – April 20, 2012 – Hospitality Sunday

1216AFC042012 – Catholic Letter Series

Happy Aloha Friday, Beloved! I want to begin today with a special acknowledgement of some recent celebrations.

  • March 25th – 35th anniversary of my confirmation at St. Bede church in Montgomery AL
  • March 27th – 64th anniversary of my baptism as an infant at 1st Presbyterian Church in Rapid City SD
  • April 3rd – 57th anniversary 1st profession of faith at Corona Presbyterian Church in Denver
  • April 5th – 43rd anniversary of my baptism and first communion as a Catholic in 1969
  • April 18th – 57th anniversary of my selection for membership at Corona Presbyterian Church in Denver CO
  • April 19th 43rd anniversary marriage. Charles O. Todd, III married Crucita A. Gonzales at Chapel 2 on Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio TX.

Seems like Spring is the time of year for good things to happen! For all of you who have been part of those celebrations, I send you my heartfelt thanks and lasting appreciation for your presence in my life (especially you, Mrs. Todd!).

We are now in the Octave of Easter and heading for Pentecost Sunday. Along the way, we’ll pass my absolute favorite passage in the Bible – the account of The Ascension in Acts 1:1-11. But before we get there, there are still a couple of these short epistles we will review. Today we have the third and last epistle from John. There is another book written by John – Revelation – but that won’t be included in this series. A quick comment, though, about that book. The full title is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” which is given in Revelation 1:1. Many of us hear or say “Revelations” when we refer to this amazing book of prophesy, but there is no “s” in the title. Grab your Bible right quick and have a look. The author of the Gospel named after John, the author of the three epistles we’re reviewing, and the author of Revelation are all the same guy: John, the Beloved Apostle. So, let’s see what John is writing about in this last epistle.

You may remember that the first two dealt with heresies, mostly Gnosticism. 1 John is an elegant treatise on the Love of God. We saw that John’s explication of Jesus’ ministry and purpose could be summarized as LIGHT ≡ GOD ≡ LOVE there the “≡” means “is identical to.” In the second epistle, John addresses his words to a beloved Lady Kyria in Truth and Love, so we added to the identity-expression: LIGHT ≡ GOD ≡ LOVE ≡ TRUTH ≡ WAY ≡ LIFE. In this third epistle, John is writing to another close friend, Gaius who is a member of a small church – perhaps one that John himself planted – and he is telling Gaius to help care for some itinerant preachers who have been denied hospitality. That sounds pretty straightforward, but as with the previous epistles, there are some real treasures in this super-short (15 verses) letter.

John begins with the kind of opening any of us my use; to paraphrase: ” Beloved Gaius, I hope you are well and prospering physically as much as you have prospered spiritually. Some of your friends passed through here recently and commented on your reverence to the Lord and your devotion to serving his church.

John commends Gaius for doing such a good job and for being considerate and hospitable to these itinerant preachers who were bringing the Truth to the region – quite unlike the previous situation in which John warned about itinerant preachers who were assaulting the True Faith with their self-centered lies. John apparently knows the travelers well, and is grateful that Gaius looked after them and helped them.

This is especially important because there is one person associated with that particular community who is not hospitable an is in fact a real detriment to the newly-formed community of believers. The man’s name is Diotrephes (die-AH-tre-fees), a very uncommon name. It means “nourished by Jupiter.” We don’t know exactly what his relationship to this particular church was, but it seems he had assumed the role for being “The Decider.” John had sent a letter to the church previously (we do not have that letter however), and Diotrephes refused the letter on behalf of the community, then made a big stink about how the Apostle John really had no authority to “interfere” with their community. The arrogant chap sees himself as the center of the church, the center of attention, and the epitome of truth. He is a know-it-all who is profoundly ignorant about all matters of faith and incredibly overconfident about his authority in the community. John says of him that he “likes to put himself first.” Diotrephes has intercepted the letter, belittled John’s authority, refused hospitality to the persons who carried the disputed letter to the new church, and then punished those who tried to be hospitable by kicking them out of the church – canceling their membership!

John is laying out an explanation for why he is seeking Gaius’ continued help and hospitality. There is another itinerant preacher – another missionary – headed in the direction of that church. The man’s name is Demetrius, and John gives him a solid thumbs-up introduction: “Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.” There is another Demetrius mentioned in Acts 19:24 – Demetrius the Silversmith – who gave Paul and his companions a pretty hard time in Ephesus (two epistles to the Ephesians tell of Paul’s concerns for that church). That guy had a sweet deal going at the Temple of Diana. He was making little silver ornaments – tiny charms to small scale models of the temple – and selling them to devotees of Diana. Paul’s preaching put quite a dent in his business, so that Demetrius really came after Paul and tried to get him thrown out of town. By this time Paul had been in Asia  a little over two years, and nearly all of Asia had heard the Gospel through Paul and his assistants, Timothy, Erastus, Gaius, and Aristarchus. Was this the same Gaius to whom John was writing? We do not know – it was a fairly common name back then, as was Demetrius.

The Demetrius being introduced to Gaius by John was someone John could vouch for personally, and he wanted Gaius to know that he should do everything possible to make sure Demetrius and his companions would receive the utmost courtesy, respect, and hospitality – despite of and in disregard of anything Diotrephes said or did. John closes the letter in a way similar to the previous letters: “I could write more, but why waste the paper and ink? I’ll be speaking with you face-to-face soon.”

Is this brief history, we see some excellent insights into managing difficulties in the church. John begins by reaching out and staying in contact with the church and with people he trusts. Many times we’d rather retreat because we “don’t want to seem confrontational.” MALARKEY! When there’s something amiss, you fix it. One of my previous supervisors often said, “If you see a snake, shoot it!” There is nothing to be gained by avoiding a problem. John’s solution was to face it head on, call upon some allies, and lay out a plan for dealing with the problem.

Diotrephes seems to have relatives living in our churches today. We have all probably known someone who is a self-appointed fixer-of-all, someone whose personal brand of piety is – in their humble opinion – superior to everyone else’s. The thing is that if these misguided souls are allowed to build a broader power-base by intimidating everyone from the Pastor to the choir-member, they will be destroying the church from the inside. We need to confront these people with the Power of the Gospel, and make clear where their authority – if any – reaches and does not reach.

John’s second step was to go to this unnamed church personally and there confront Diotrephes. If Diotrephes didn’t accept John’s authority from afar, he might change his mind if he met John “up close and personal.” John didn’t need to swagger into town and blow the guy away. He would just show up and lovingly, gently elucidate the differences between their roles in the church. So, the reason for facing off with the people like Diotrephes is to spare the Church the pain and discomfort of enduring such an abscess in the Mystical Body.

John also tells us – by telling Gaius – to keep doing the right thing. It has echoes of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (4:32), “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” We should always be hospitable, yes? Well, yes, but we need to temper hospitality with wisdom and reverence. Remember how John counseled Lady Kyria? Know the boundaries. Don’t just invite everyone into the mix and then be overly-tolerant when they trash the room. It’s nice to be welcoming, sociable, and engaging when we share fellowship with one another. Don’t get so carried away with that, though, that you neglect being reverent during times set aside for worship and praise of God. There is a time and a place for socializing, but it might not be appropriate during worship. Fellowship in worship and praise is way different from chatting it up (here we say, “talking story”) loudly while others are worshiping or preparing for worship.

Di0trophes wanted to rule the church, and more than that, he wanted to oppose John. He thought he was better than the church and better than John. He was unwilling to submit to the authority of the apostle or the church he founded. We see quite a lot of that nowadays, too. A fellow I know once told me, “I never go 25 mph in the city. That’s ridiculous! It’s just too slow!” Here on Kauai – I’ve said this before – you can find “25 mph” on your speedometer just right above the point-part of the 4 in forty. We are convinced we can make our own rules to fit whatever situation we get into so that, regardless of what others may think, we are always right. And we may not always be right but we are never wrong. John makes it clear that we are to submit to authority – and this is consistent with what Jesus and Paul and all the Apostles said. Diotrephes must have heard it differently.

Well, I’ve got about six more pages of things to write to you about this little letter, but I’ve already written about three times as much as John did!! I’m going to stop right here and promise to get into the letter of Hey Jude next week.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved!



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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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