Since the beginning of the month, we’ve been looking at ways to live out our relationship as Blessed Children of God. Last time we considered the idea that Serving in Love is a way to bring light and hope to a hurting world, even in the smallest of ways.
One way to Serve in Love is by offering Hospitality. There are many examples in the Bible of men and women of God showing hospitality to strangers. The Gospel last Sunday, for many of us, was the story of Abraham’s meeting with the 3 strangers. It is an extravagant example of hospitality. “When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth…” Genesis 18:2. He then proceeds to provide a fabulous meal by having a calf roasted and telling Sarah to make cakes of ‘fine meal’ for the guests.
At the home of Mary and Martha, in Luke 10:38-42, we find another example of hospitality. Martha “opened her home to him”. (I find it intriguing that we are told it is Martha’s home, not Lazarus’, but that is for another meditation.) Martha then proceeds to work herself to a state of frustration, while Mary offers the equally important hospitality of sitting with Jesus. Martha, as we know, doesn’t appreciate this and storms in, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Jesus response can be seen to be an indictment on Martha’s workaholic attitude. On the other hand, perhaps Jesus is saying, ‘I just want to hang out and visit with my friends. I don’t need a big feast. I need your company and Mary understands that.’
Both Abraham and Mary offered the Hospitality by Being Present. This is the willingness to sit with someone and spend time in conversation and quiet and sharing the gentle breeze. It is way too easy to be ‘too busy’ to find time to do this, even (or perhaps esp.) with family members. We each have our own agendas to get through. We each have our electronics to check. We each have places to go and people to see. It is too easy to end up staring at the TV rather than having conversation. Then we become strangers, even in our own homes. We do not know one another’s thoughts, hopes, dreams.
The Letter to the Hebrews admonishes us to “Continue in brotherly love. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:1-2) We need to be friendly and welcoming to the strangers among us, whether a newcomer at church, a homeless person asking for a lunch bag, the clerk at the grocery store, or the new co-worker. We might also consider rebuilding the bonds of friendship with family, with neighbors, with friends we haven’t seen for a while.
Recently I have seen a rash of ‘un-friendings’ on Facebook because someone disagreed with someone else’s political views as posted. Is this a symptom of jumping to conclusions about how well we know another person simply based on the car they drive, the politician they support, the house they live in, the color of their skin?
Maybe if we paused to sit and talk, rather than just posting this or that comment from some politician or another, we might discover that we are more alike than we thought. Perhaps if I paused to get to know the neighbor who worships differently than me, I’d discover that her God and mine are indeed the same God.I challenge you and myself this week to practice being present to someone-a family member, a stranger, a newcomer. Take a few minutes to listen to their heart. What might we learn?