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    Mar 15, 2020

    Hostility to Hospitality

    Hostility to Hospitality

    Speaker: Vivian McCarthy

    Today we invite you to Movement 2 in your spiritual life, the Movement from Hostility to Hospitality – when we are able to move from loneliness to solitude, we can then move in a direction where our “hostilities can be converted into hospitality, and it is there that our changing relationship to ourself can be brought to fruition in an ever-changing relationship to our fellow human beings.”[1]

    Just What Is Hospitality?

    Write a 1-sentence definition of hostility.

    Write a 1-sentence definition of hospitality

    The movement from hostility to hospitality could be a challenge if we don’t truly understand the biblical meaning of hospitality.

    Let’s deal first with hostility.  Strong word – right?  Last week we examined how loneliness gets in the way of our being our best selves when we ignore the things that are painful and get lodged in our hearts.  Pain, fear, anger can all lead to hostility.  We see the Other as a stranger, mostly because they are not the same as us, so we are suspicious and close ourselves off to others – and often we fear the Other.  Maybe we don’t equate fear with hostility, but think for a moment of what it feels like to know you are not acceptable to someone else.  That kind of rejection – rejection that is not based on anything other than your self – feels hostile even when it isn’t.  If hospitality makes room for someone else, the opposite of hospitality can feel like hostility.

    From the time of Abraham and even prior to that, hospitality is lifted up in scripture as a clear biblical value and strong expectation of the People of God.  The people were to welcome the Other – the Stranger – and see to their needs, welcoming them into their home.  This was not a social nicety.  It was a necessity in a harsh climate and desolate landscape where food and water were hard to come by and there were no Wawa or Royal Farms where people could just pop in and get what they needed!

    What the People of God learned in story after story is that when they were open enough to offer the kind of hospitality expected of them – by  God, no less – they found that the Stranger often brought a gift they could never have imagined, and sometimes it was a visit by an angel of God.

    The Scriptures in Brief

    Genesis 18:1-15:  Abraham and Sarah offered hospitality to 3 strangers who turned out to be messengers of God who made it clear that they were to receive a gift of a child when they were in their declining years, supposedly no longer able to produce a child on their own.

    1 Kings 17:8-21:  A widow who was down to her last little bit of flour and oil welcomed Elijah and offered him, at his request, a meal made from that last little bit, and from there on her oil and flour did not run out.  She was able to feed herself and her son from that moment on – and not only that, Elijah revived the widow’s son when he fell ill and had apparently died!  A gift, indeed!

    Matthew 11:25-30:  And then there was Jesus.  He put no qualifications on the invitation when he said:  Come to me all who are weary and carrying heavy loads and I will give you rest.

    Now take a few moments to dig deep and ask yourself:  When have I received hospitality from someone that was totally unexpected and that resulted in a gift that was of God? 

    What Must I Lay Aside?

    In those biblical examples of hospitality we just heard, each of the people had to lay aside something that was of worth to them or lay aside fear.  Abraham and Sarah had to lay aside their skepticism that they could have a child.  The widow had to lay down her fear of starvation and death.  Jesus had to lay aside the expectations of the day when he invited everyone – he didn’t, for example, exclude the leper who in that day was the untouchable.  Rather, his invitation was “come to me ALL who are heavy-laden.”

    Tony Trcka shared a story from his own experience.  He was introduced to a guy who had all kinds of tattoos, dressed in leather, very long, straggly beard.  Tony immediately judged the guy to be of a certain character, and if I got it right, Tony was a little bit afraid of him.  When they started talking with each other, Tony learned that he was a biker, true, but he was also a deeply committed, biblically literate Christian who offered Tony a kind of Christian friendship that is enduring and mutually fulfilling!

    Nouwen offers us these thoughts on hospitality:

    …hospitality wants to offer friendship without binding the guest…Hospitality, therefore, means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy…It is not a method of making our God and our way into the criteria of happiness, but the opening of an opportunity to others to find their God and their way…Hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt the life style of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find [their] own.[1]

    Take a few moments now to look deep inside yourself and ask two questions:

    Whom do I see as the Other – as the Stranger?  (Define “the Other” as a person I would automatically be afraid of – or ignore, often because somewhere in our self we don’t think they belong or maybe even that they aren’t worth our time and attention)

    What do I have to lay aside in order to offer biblical hospitality to that Stranger?  What might life be like if we were able to lay aside our preconceptions and prejudices so that we created space for the Stranger?

    Hospitality and Our Inner Mystery

    Last Sunday we ended our spiritual exercises with this quote from Nouwen:

    When we do not protect with great care our own inner mystery, we will never be able to form community.  It is this inner mystery that attracts us to each other and allows us to establish friendship and develop lasting relationships of love.  An intimate relationship between people not only asks for mutual openness but also for mutual respectful protection of each other’s uniqueness.[2] 

    Making room for the Other does not mean being less of yourself in order to accommodate the Other.  Let me say that again.  Making room for the Other does not mean being less of yourself in order to accommodate the Other. 

    Making room means being able to see and hear what the stranger brings.  Making room means being curious and open.  Making room means allowing for an exchange while not insisting that only one way is valuable – but it does not mean that because there is value in the other way or the other thought that it must be your way/your thought.

    Making room means that you bring your best self, your own wondrous inner mystery and offer it while accepting the other’s best self and wondrous inner mystery and bringing the curiosity to find what the gift may be from the stranger.  You may be thoroughly surprised and utterly delighted. 

    Spend some time in prayer or writing your prayer list. When you conclude your prayers, click this link for a closing song -- at least to listen to, at best, to pray it as you sing along!  

    [1] Nouwen, pp. 50-51.

    [2] Nouwen, page 20

    [1] Nouwen, Henri, Reaching Out, Copyright © 1975 by Henri J. M. Nouwen.  Doubleday and Co.  Page 46.