Host and guest
The spiritual practice of loving hospitality is about accepting the desperate phone calls in the middle of the night. It’s about welcoming the lost and making room for travelers. It’s about belonging and having a place at the table. Hospitality is warmth of love given and received.
The Greek word xenos means both host and guest. The root word of hospitality – hospes – claims both the host and guest as one. Martha received Jesus as a guest (Luke 10:38). After he had received Martha’s gift of hospitality, he became the host and offered his own gifts to Mary. The men along the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) offered to host and feed a “stranger.” Jesus turned the tables on their hospitality and became the host by breaking the bread.
Is Jesus just a bad guest? What do you think of this table-turning hospitality? What is your experience as both host and guest. As a host, what do you give? How does your hospitality make room for your guests to give? When have you turned the table on a guest? Have you, as a guest, ever found yourself in the host’s chair?
From beginning to end, the Scriptures call us to love our neighbour. Words of the law direct God’s chosen ones to love the stranger, open our hearts and hand to the poor and needy, and eat with our enemies. The gospel summons believers to welcome and give care to the least. The call is not in question. How to carry out the call is in question. How do you swing the door open wide enough to embrace your neighbour? How does your worshipping community make room to love and care for all human beings?
Sometimes the door slams on hospitality. After the events of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, fear forced the disciples to lock the door. Fear kept the disciples a “safe distance” away from all that threatened them. Yet, Jesus calls us to overcome our fears and be hospitable to all persons. We are to reach out to help those in need, and do the simple things like be a listening ear when needed. God’s love smothers us with a genuine concern for all persons when we have the doors of our hearts open to receiving that love. When our hearts are open, our doors are too.
Jesus stood among the disciples. He offered peace in exchange for their fears and anxious feelings. This peace has the power to change hostis (enemy) into hospes (guest).
Put into practice
At one time or another, we are all strangers. Pray the Scripture from Deuteronomy 10:12-21. Invite God to give you a stranger’s insight into loving hospitality. Listen for ways you might reach out to someone – as one stranger to another. You could volunteer to take food to shut-ins, to welcome visitors in the church, or do other acts of hospitality you can think of.