Yesterday we began a five-part series on the divine vocation to be radically hospitable and truly welcoming. Following weeks “Hospitality of Heart” (3/12), “Hospitality of Mind” (3/19), “Hospitality of Time” (3/26) and “God as Guest” (4/2).
In the opening conversation we acknowledged that sometimes what matters is a committed and earnest intention to be hospitable though we hope that it will soon always be accompanied by a joyful pleasure in being hospitable.
We also considered what makes it difficult to be hospitable, among them:
1. we are unwell, the health of our personal disposition affects our commitment to hospitality
2. distractions will make hospitality difficult; to be attentive to another is to be hospitable
3. fear of rejection/the expectation of abused vulnerability makes it difficult to be hospitable and
4. our lack of receiving authentic and radical hospitality makes it difficult for us to be authentically and radically hospitable.
(Maybe forget the cynic who said, “Do not mistake endurance for hospitality.”)
The Mark of Humanity & Divinity
#1 The Foundation of Hospitality
Sunday March 5th 2017
Hospitality – φιλόξενος
The Greek term that is often translated into the English term “hospitality” is the word φιλόξενος. The word is a combination of two concepts that break down as follows:
φιλό (pronounced Philao) is one of several words for “love” in Greek. Being a more precise language than English, classical Greek has a few different ways to express the word “love”. In this case, the word that is used means “brotherly love” or “to love like a brother”, and is how we get the name Philadelphia- the City of Brotherly Love.
The word ξενος (Xenos) which makes up the second half of the word we render “hospitality” actually means “stranger” or “immigrant”, and is where we get the word xenophobia which is the fear of strangers/immigrants.
In light of these two words being combined, hospitality as commonly understood, isn’t exactly the best way to express this biblical truth. Instead of simply “entertaining guests” the word becomes “one who loves strangers/immigrants like you would your own brother”. That’s a big difference, and completely changes the way we see this term used in scripture.
7-13 So reach out and welcome one another to God’s glory. Jesus did it; now you do it! Jesus, staying true to God’s purposes, reached out in a special way to the Jewish insiders so that the old ancestral promises would come true for them. As a result, the non-Jewish outsiders have been able to experience mercy and to show appreciation to God. Just think of all the Scriptures that will come true in what we do! For instance:
Then I’ll join outsiders in a hymn-sing;
I’ll sing to your name!
And this one:
Outsiders and insiders, rejoice together!
People of all nations, celebrate God!
All colors and races, give hearty praise!
And Isaiah’s word:
There’s the root of our ancestor Jesse,
breaking through the earth and growing tree tall,
Tall enough for everyone everywhere to see and take hope!
Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!
9-10 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
11-13 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
20-21 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.
[In the icon, notice the sensitive and and hospitable way in which each figure is inclined to the other and notice that the icon invites the viewer to take a place at the open side of the table.]
18 1-2 God appeared to Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent. It was the hottest part of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing. He ran from his tent to greet them and bowed before them.
3-5 He said, “Master, if it please you, stop for a while with your servant. I’ll get some water so you can wash your feet. Rest under this tree. I’ll get some food to refresh you on your way, since your travels have brought you across my path.”
They said, “Certainly. Go ahead.”
6 Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. He said, “Hurry. Get three cups of our best flour; knead it and make bread.”
7-8 Then Abraham ran to the cattle pen and picked out a nice plump calf and gave it to the servant who lost no time getting it ready. Then he got curds and milk, brought them with the calf that had been roasted, set the meal before the men, and stood there under the tree while they ate.
9 The men said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?”
Next week – Hospitality of Heart!