Rambling On and On About Hospitality

Please bear with me as I mutter and ramble a bit.  It is the middle of the night and my mind is troubled by a number of things that rob me of sleep.  And though I try to read, research, talk about and contemplate BIBLICAL HOSPITALITY in recent months, my daily life has become so hectic that some days I barely read three pages on the topic, and sometimes that is interrupted ten times.

Point being: I am trying to formulate coherent, meaningful thoughts on the matter while attending to the circus of modern life and then wishing I could say something in a meaningful presentation AND finding that all hard to do.  So I am posting some thoughts from the soup of my rambling mind in the quiet of the middle of the night with a bright moonshine pouring down on my back yard.

Hospitality.

I find it to be the magic bullet of theology these days.  The allusive, missing link.  The red pill.

Take your Bible, start reading and looking for HOSPITALITY under every rock, AND THERE IT IS!  Just waiting for you to find it or plug it in, and everything makes fresh new sense!!!

Yeah.

I grew up in a particular Christian heritage that thought you could do that with “Baptism”.  Then I went to school and found “Community” there under every stone.  I read N.T. Wright and found “Kingdom” and “Image” under every rock.  Then I dove into Christian ministry and found “Communion” – the Eucharist Meal – to be the lynchpin that held IT ALL TOGETHER.  Yeah, baby!

And now I am finding HOSPITALITY to be the magic bullet.

Hmmm…

Almost seems like you just run around remaking Jesus after your own image all the time.  I found the Pearl of Great Expense.  It was Baptism… no wait… it was Church… no wait… it was God’s Sovereignty… no wait… it’s all there in the Manna!

And just about here… my “…no wait…” meter is wearing down.

Is HOSPITALITY really where it’s at?  Or am I just abuzz with the next big buzz even before it catches on with the next best selling Christian author???

It feels a little vain.

I mean, maybe if I could get my thoughts in order and get a hearing AND get a good publisher, THEN MAYBE I COULD get the next 15 minutes of fame for the next 40 days of purpose.  And MAYBE my flash in the pan would finally satisfy me and God and usher in the AGE TO COME in all it’s glory.

but probably not

Hmmm…

Yeah.  So I am finding HOSPITALITY under every stone.  And I am not kidding about this.  I really am.

But I find it to be the setting for Eucharist.  And that was the buzz I was on just previous to this.

Eucharist.

It’s not just a pinch of cracker and a thimble full of grape juice.  It’s not just the Body and the Blood.  Though those things are important, maybe even central, we have been so dangerously reductionist about Eucharist, in my estimation… in my experience.  Both the prophets of old and Jesus lay claim to the messianic banquet of the ages as some symbolic way of talking about God’s utopian dreams for his creation.  Some day all the saved will sit at the King’s Table and dine with God.

And if you start sniffing for Dinner With God under stone after stone all through the Bible, the Bible will not disappoint!  You will find the celebration meal expanding your mind like LSD only wishes it could!  You find it on that desert mountain when God gives Israel the law; you find it in the Passover when Jesus sets out a New Covenant and the Last Supper.  St. Paul finds this meal proclaiming (revealing) Jesus’s death until he comes, and St. Luke shows us the church sharing this meal every time these people assemble.  And then we recall that King David had proclaimed a table prepared in the presence of his enemies.  And we find Jesus feeding 5000 in the desert and recall Moses and the Manna.

Have I covered every instance with this list?

Hardly.

The Kingdom of God is a PARTY.

And then we recall that this meal is a PARTY, and sure enough like Deuteronomy 14 and 15, we find party theology overwhelming Luke 14 and 15 too.  And it starts to feel like the PARTY is the red pill that changes everything… the party in which the Eucharist is shared.

Who knew a meal could be SO DEEPLY CENTRAL to the salvation of the world???

But then … come to think of it… it was a meal at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil way back in Genesis 3 which set all the devastation in motion.  A MEAL did all of this to us (a party where humanity disinvited God) and so sure enough a MEAL (God’s Party) will play a central role in getting us out of our mess!  A messianic banquet of the ages!

And what is the setting for this party?

…drum roll please….

HOSPITALITY.

Yeah!  Hospitality.

It’s not the center of the meal.  No.  The meal is the center of the party and the party is hosted in HOSPITALITY.

And so I go turning biblical stones and finding it EVERYWHERE!

At first I found it in that very mysterious verse: Hebrews 13:2.  But quickly I found it in Genesis 18 when Abe and Sarah hosted the Angels unaware.  But that story leads into the one about the Angels visiting Lot and his family in a really twisted twist on our theme!  But it’s there too.

But, and at first this feels like a stretch…, it’s also in that story where Abe sends his servant to find a wife for his son.  Yeah… think about it carefully.  The servant shows up at the well to water his animals and starts praying for God to send a girl to him to take back to his master’s son.  And this kicks off a romantic wedding story by God sending a girl alright, a girl who invites the servant back to her father’s place for a meal – a meal at which the servant REVEALS God’s will for everyone who eats there together.  And this story goes on to provide a backdrop for so much more deeply theological and prophetic stage production put on by Jesus when he too meets a woman at a well and then gets married to a church much later in John’s Gospel.

And believe me.  I am just scratching the surface here.

I have not mentioned at all yet how John Walton pops up in my research in recent years with all his work on the “Lost World of Genesis” where he claims creation was God’s idea of a cathedral in which to be worshipped.  And so we have this Carpenter building a home in which he then hosts a party for these creatures he made to bear his image in the world, an image that once seen causes creation to react with SHALOM.

And so with Walton’s observations all this stuff becomes highly complex and cosmic in scope.  All encompassing to say the least.  But it’s firmly anchored in God’s creative love, and thus we now are in a position to feel fully justified in finding it under every stone.

AND THEN suddenly it dawns on me that this REVELATION at the MEAL a revelation which started at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and which continues to be revealed in the meals all through the Bible, not least in the desert, not least in Luke 14-15 or 24, not least with St. Paul and the Corinthians or with Abe’s servant when he meets a girl at the well, but a revelation that is revealed mysteriously every time we PARTAKE of that scant piece of cracker and that tiny thimble of grape juice, that God LOVES us and is creating his image in us and has plans for us and reveals what they are – that they are wedding plans and a coronation (the very things we find in Genesis 1 and 2, btw).

And so I am reading Joshua Jipp’s work on John’s Gospel and plugging it into all the overwhelming mysteries I have found there over the years (and did I mention they are overwhelming to me?) which suddenly thematically ties it all together with HOSPITALITY.  Yes, that first sign we find in John is a WEDDING PARTY where Jesus turns the water to wine.  And it is a first sign placed in the second book in the Bible to open with the words “In the beginning….”.  Yes, John is talking about New Creation all through his Gospel, and the opening prolog is not the half of it.  But I won’t go into all the details on that here just now.

I won’t mention that John does not name the garden of Gethsemane.  We know that is the name from the other Gospels, but John ambiguously leaves it unnamed – probably so we won’t block Eden from our minds as we think about what happens in that garden.  And on the first day of the week when Mary Magdalene bumps into the risen Jesus and fails to recognize him (much the way the disciples in Luke 24 fail to recognize him) she mistakes him for “the Gardener” – which is exactly what the first Adam was!  And that fits nicely with St. Paul’s declaration that Jesus is the “last Adam”.

Okay… so without mentioning those tantalizing details (ha!), Jipp points out that Jesus starts with talking about wine at a wedding, then begins talking about living water, then about bread from heaven, and later about washing feet.  These are all elements of… drum roll please… HOSPITALITY!!!

God, the carpenter of creation, built a home and invited us to come eat in it with him!  He is hospitable to us and wants us to be hospitable to him!

And, by the way, I have recently come to see that most famous of homeless-ministry passages (Matt. 25:31-46) describes HOSPITALITY to the stranger who it turns out is JESUS who may be revealed to us (like we find in Luke 24) or may not (like we find in Hebrews 13:2).

Okay…

I have said enough now to demonstrate why I am so excited about this study, I hope.  But it all feels a little vain too.  It feels like I am just toying with the next big buzz in Christian marketing before its time or something.  I mean, in the big ho hum of pendulum swinging fashions in ministry and theology, we are still swinging in the direction people like Corbett, Fikkert, and Lupton have us going.  We don’t want to overly help the poor because that only hurts them.  And I have spent most of the last ten years pointing out to a church that desperately and cruelly shuns me for pointing it out that this crap just ain’t biblical.

But now I am seeing the whole package coming together for the much more exciting (but risky too) study of opening our churches, our homes, our lives, and our VULNERABILITIES up to the stranger(s) God would have us host so he can unfold his revelation to us.

And all I can say is that God has given this treasure to little ol’ inadequate ME.  And I will share it with anyone who will come and sit for a sip of coffee and maybe stay for dinner.  And I will continue to read and research even just three pages at a time some days and try to prepare a presentation of all of this for a world that buys ADT services and locks for our doors at ever increasing expense.

Behold.  I stand at the door and knock.  And if you open up, I will come in and party with you.

(How’s that for a ramble?)

6 comments

  1. Lisa Fenwick · June 17, 2019

    I agree!! God always wants us to be the neighbor to anyone. This is a hard thing for us to grasp! Most people think they go to serve God at our “worship”, And thats it. The church is supposed to be the family of God! This is what God wants! He wants us to join with him and be the neighbor to the lonely. To be honest this is a hard thing for us Americans to do. We are so individual in our thoughts. I’m reading a book that ties in to this. It is Engaging with God, by David Peterson. I have only read two chapters but it is good. It is a theology of worship. Not just the assembly but our lives of service to God.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Child Of God · June 17, 2019

    Thank you for this post. Deep and funny. God bless you. If u are ever in south Florida I will give you hospitality.🙏😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · June 18, 2019

      Thanx for this!

      When I come to Florida, I will look you up. Definitely.

      (However, as of yet, no plans for a trip….)

      Like

  3. Carl Cope · June 19, 2019

    You skill as a writer is a gift. And this theme, Hospitality, is one that I have sensed in the last several years. Not just a matter of being polite and nice. But more to the heart of loving others. Thanks for the words and the hospitality I see in you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · June 19, 2019

      Let me recommend a couple of very interesting reads on this topic to you. Saved By Faith and Hospitality is the best book I have found so far. It’s written by Joshua Jipp. I also recommend Making Room by Christine Pohl. But the ABD article on Hospitality by John Koenig is also very insightful and helpful.

      Thanx for reading and responding.

      X

      Like

  4. Agent X · June 30, 2019

    I had a response to this post from one reader who expressed fear about keeping homeless people in his home. He was concerned that bums off the street not having a criminal background check present danger and likely will bring in drugs from the streets into his home.

    The following is my response to his response. (Identity protected)

    Agent D,

    I apologize once more. Your response to my recent post is very important to me, yet I have been so overwhelmed with things that I have not devoted the proper time to responding to you too. But I have a little time now, even if it is late in coming.

    As you know, I find this subject matter to be deeply significant for the church and for followers of Jesus. Your respectful, heartfelt response elicits a respectful and careful feedback from me. I do not believe it is right to just let it go, nor do I want to trouble you unnecessarily. However, I believe there are things we can say and do which surely would mitigate SOME of your fears and concerns, if not all of them, yet also address the issue in a faithful way.

    The first thing I would say is that faith involves risk. To follow Jesus in faith inherently involves risk, and that cannot be avoided. It will involve suffering too, and so there is no risk in that. There will be the suffering, but it does not mean all suffering at all times. I also would point out that Love Casts Out Fear (I John 4:18). The fear we confront is overcome by our love, and there is comfort to take in that.

    But there are practical matters we can discuss too, which will, I think mitigate some of this and still be faithful to the call.

    Strangers come in three different categories of concern for the Bible. Orphans, widows, and sojourners.

    At my house, we currently show hospitality to little ones. The smaller the child, the more constant care they require, but the less risk of drug abuse or violence. Those are legitimate concerns when you open your home, and they are concerns I practically do not face in my ministry as it is currently practiced. I suffer a lot of diaper changes, a lot of childish mishaps, and toddler proofing of my home, but I do not fear them robbing, harming, or killing me or bringing drugs in off the street.

    I would further point out that since I am licensed with the state to keep foster kids, I am required to get a criminal background check for guests that visit frequently or for extended stays. Thus I don’t typically fear my adult guests either, nor am I allowed to entertain street homeless folk in my home – currently.

    I must confess to you that in my experience keeping street homeless folk in my home, I have suffered theft of one sort or another by every single one that I ever kept. Its almost a sure thing. Sad, but true. It’s a cost I am willing to pay to follow Jesus. One I have, and still do, struggle with, but one I have paid too.

    This brings me to another mitigating tactic. The main reason I am so adamant with the church about letting homeless into the church building for shelter is because at THE BUILDING we all share this risk together AND minimize it at the same time.

    Think of it like this:

    If you keep a bum off the street in your home over night, at some point you will want to lay down and go to sleep. But you will wonder if your guest will rise in the night and steal from or harm you. Actually there are other things that happen which are not nearly so evil, but also cause much suffering. I had one lady become incontinent while sleeping on my living room floor in the middle of the night and her husband got up and tried to clean the mess himself without troubling me or my wife. He tried to wash the mess out in the shower and then in the washing machine, but he wound up making matters worse in his valiant attempt to protect her (his wife) from the shame of it. When it was all said and done, the wife was mortified, and I had to clean up a worse mess than if I had handled in myself from the beginning.

    IF, on the other hand, our church launched a ministry that kept the homeless in our building at night, we could/would deploy deacons/volunteers to chaperone the guests. Just two or three volunteers taking turns keeping watch through the night will keep most of the potential trouble at bay AND afford each church member the peace of mind that their own home and safety is not at added risk ALL WHILE PROVIDING THIS VERY BIBLICAL ministry!

    Furthermore, as this ministry serves the homeless public over time, the volunteers begin to build relationship with these street people, which means they learn who is and who is not more suited to staying in your home. I mean if a volunteer gets to know John Doe from the street over the course of several months and learns that he does not smoke, that he is honest, and loves Jesus, then after a few months of learning this, the volunteer can suggest that he come stay at your house as he rebuilds his life.

    The fact is that not all homeless people are addicts and criminals. In fact, most homeless people are homeless only about two months before they get their life back on track. They are not actually chronic in the lifestyle, but once you are on the streets, you live among all those who are chronic, with all the horrible addictions and all that. How can you tell who is who?

    Well, if we were serving them at our church on a regular basis, the volunteers will begin to learn who is who and they can vouch for those they find trustable.

    Can you see how such a process would mitigate most of the fears you expressed to me?

    There will always be some risk, but we really can serve God in a manner like his Word calls us to AND mitigate a lot of this risk.

    What about serving widows?

    When I was a kid, my mom took in widow ladies as us kids grew up and moved out. My old room was quickly filled with a little widow lady who could have wound up in a nursing home. She required a fair bit of healthcare and all, but she was a sweet little old lady who was taking on a lot more risk by this situation than my mom did. Still, my mom showed hospitality to the stranger, one of the vulnerable people God calls us to serve. And yet the little widow lady presented practically no risk of criminal activity or drug abuse. She were a geriatric version of the child care I do now.

    I could go on and say a lot more to all of this actually, but I think this is enough to get the juices flowing.

    You are not alone in your fears. I face them too. Yet I think if we face them together, they are way more manageable.

    I hope this helps.

    Thank you again for your response. It means a lot to me.

    God bless you. Your friendship means a lot to me too.

    Like

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