Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Discovering the "Martha" in ourselves - offering radical hospitality to the stranger in our midst (Luke 10:38)

SCRIPTURE: Luke 10:38 (TM)
As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home.

James W. Cox writes: You and I tend to offer hospitality to only a limited number of
people--persons whom we already know, mostly relatives and a few close
friends. But, in Abraham’s time, hospitality was extended to whomever needed
it--strangers and acquaintances alike. In fact, in its original form,
"hospitality" combines two separate words--one meaning friend and the other
meaning stranger. So, from the beginning of its usage, hospitality has
carried with it the idea of making friends out of strangers.

We love to entertain. Nothing is higher on our “to do” list than to have friends and family over for dinner and a game or two of cards. Hosting a Christmas Open House was a long-standing tradition. In one situation there were monthly Anniversary/Birthday Parties for the congregation… Those were the days, my friend… We thought they'd never end… We'd sing and dance forever and a day… We'd live the life we choose… We'd fight and never lose… For we were young and sure to have our way… but alas, those days have come to an end, except for having family and a few friends over. Stamina and energy are just not what they use to be.

Offering hospitality should not a matter of stamina, resources, energy, or opportunity. In fact, Radical Hospitality should be one of our highest priorities. Extending a greeting, a cool cup of fresh water, comfort on the journey, making friends out of strangers – this is our call. It is key to discipleship.

We like to pick and choose who we welcome into our home. We prefer to choose whom it is we include in our circle of acquaintances. If a person is “different” or seems “strange” or speaks only a foreign language or acknowledges a different faith than ours or even worse, “smells” … well, no, the circle is not drawn to include them. After all one does have to be “careful” in this day and time, don’t we?

Why would today be any different than Jesus’ day? Discipleship is discipleship. We should not look on the outward appearances. Isn’t it enough that the other individual is a child of God? Doesn’t everyone deserve the same greeting, the same welcome?

A real challenge faces the 21st Century Christians – the need to offer Radical Hospitality. Shouldn’t we go out of our way to make sure that our circle of friends and our churches are not guilty of “group think”? “Group think” is where everybody looks the same, talks the same, walks the same, thinks the same and even has reached the same income level. The challenge is for all of us to find the “Martha” in ourselves. This will definitely take us out of our comfort zone, but, hey, isn’t that a little bit of what discipleship is all about – asking us to do what we wouldn’t normally do; to go where we wouldn’t normally go; to stretch us beyond what we are comfortable doing. Just remember, God never asks us to do something that we can do, but he always asks us to do things that require the Holy Spirit.

Lord, you have got to be kidding, right… to welcome the stranger and the strange into our circle of friends? But, they are sooooooo different! Too different! We really need the Holy Spirit to pull this off. So, come Holy Spirit… come and make us different, make us act different, cause us to react differently, mold us to think differently. 

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