This week I have found myself pondering what hospitality, real hospitality, Jesus-style hospitality, might be. For some of my thoughts from early this week you can check here.
I have come to think that while Hospitality has become a (perhaps the) watch-word in church circles these days. If we just get the hospitality piece down pat then people will feel happy and comfortable and come more often. If we are friendly and welcoming and say the right things then we will be seen as worth coming back to. And that may be true. But if we stop there we are missing the point of Jesus-style hospitality. We are missing what Jesus and God are calling us to practise.
You see, Jesus in this Luke passage reminds us that hospitality is about "the others". It is about how well we welcome the least and the outcast. And this, unfortunately, is where the church tends to fall down.
LAst summer there was a motion at General Council that if it had passed as written, would have required all UCCan congregations to be accessible regardless of physical ability or gender or orientation or marital status or race or....
NOw that is a call to radical, JEsus-style hospitality. So now the question is, how do I issue the challenge? |In a downtown church where there are often signs of homeless in the area how do we welcome them? In a denomination that 22 years ago decided that sexual orientation was irrelevant in terms of being called to ministry how are we doing? In a world where church congregations are notoriously homogenous in terms of ethinc origin and socio-economic class how do we claim to be truly welcoming? In a time when churches talk constantly about ministering to families do we appear welcoming to those whose family is scattered or different?
HOw can we practise this radical Jesus-style hospitality? There are 2 stories I will likely include on Sunday. One is of a person who is clearly "different" coming in to sit on the carpet at the front of the sanctuary and the elderly elder who joins him there. The other is of a rabbi teaching the class how to know day has come--when you can look into the face of a stranger and see a friend. It is just the question of how challenging to be one month into a new pastoral relationship that is haunting me.
PS> in my reflections yesterday it struck me that my entire working life has been spent in one form or another of the hospitality industry. I have worked in restaurants and a golf course clubhouse--things that are traditionally considered part of the hospitality industry. But I have also worked and volunteered at church camps---moving a bit out of the traditional definitions but still fairly obviously about welcoming, and moving closer to the radical hospitality taught by Jesus. Then for the last decade in Ordained ministry--a bit further fromt he traditional "restaurant and motel" definition but most certainly hospitality. ANd the other one is 3 years at a crisis nursery. Would we have described ourselves as a hospitality industry? nope. But without a doubt the whole nature of a crisis nursery is JEsus-style hospitality put into practice. It was a ministry setting that was all about hospitality. ANd so that is another thing that will make it into the sermon on Sunday (a little piece of self-disclosure to continue introducing myself to the congregation).