Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hospitality and witness-the notes

Here are an edited version of my notes for my talk about hospitality as witness.

If there is any concept worth restoring to its original depth and evocative potential, it is the concept of hospitality.
Henri Nouwen

Does hospitality have a part to play in the witness of the church? Well the short answer is yes, but of course it rather depends upon what you mean by witness and what you mean by hospitality, and just for good measure what you mean by church! In the Ancient world hospitality was assumed and expected. If you turned up in a strange town or village, someone would offer hospitality.

Being so much more sophisticated, we’ve turned hospitality into a business, a marketing opportunity, a degree-level qualification. We offer hospitality on the basis of a return. Not so for our ancient predecessors.

Paul urged fellow Christians to welcome one another, because it was the right thing to do. It honoured Christ and the cause of Christ.

Hospitality was a qualification for leadership (1Tim.3)

Hebrews says welcome strangers... you might be entertaining angels unawares

Jesus: when you did it for the least of these...

Rom 12:13 Practice hospitality

1Pet 4:0 Offer hospitality without grumbling

In Luke's post-resurrection account of the Emmaus road, Jesus is revealed as the risen Christ in the context of hospitality and food. And while the link to hospitality and witness seems rather tenuous at best, there is something about his self-revelation in the practice of eating that at the very least hints at how important eating together can be for a full expression of relationship.

And it’s not the only time. Breakfast on the beach, eating with them during the 40 days between resurrection and ascension according to Acts 1. And we should not forget his words in Revelation 3: Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone will open the door, I will come and eat with them.

If the Son of God himself thinks it is important to eat with his followers, even after his death and resurrection, what role does it play for us?

Hospitality and witness

#1 It Includes

Jesus offered a welcome to strangers. He said: Come to me all you who are weary and carrying heavy loads. Come, find rest for your souls. Hospitality can be a sign of the welcome of the kingdom.

#2 It identifies

Jesus ate with folk that religious people wouldn’t touch with a barge pole. Because of it he became known as “a friend of sinners”.

#3 It celebrates

When Zacchaeus responds to the gospel, Jesus invites himself to dinner to celebrate the event.

#4 It exposes

When Jesus has dinner with a Pharisee his lack of courtesy is exposed. Simon disapproves of the woman who washes the feet of Jesus with her teats, but he won’t even offer water for the job. It’s beneath him.

#5 It challenges

When there is no one to wash the feet of the disciples, Jesus does it himself.

#6 It encourages

The early church met together in homes around meals. They ate together with glad and sincere hearts (Acts 2). This was part of the larger picture of the life of the early church that resulted in mission and growth. In fact almost everything the early church did produced growth. The outpouring of God’s Spirit, the gathering of the early community, the signs and wonders, the early persecution and arrest precipitated a prayer for boldness that resulted in growth. The problem with the Greek widows, the death of Stephen and the scattering that followed, the Spirit inspired boundary-breaking visit of Peter the Jew to Cornelius the Gentile, the conversion of Saul, the planting of the fist Gentile church, the missionary journeys, the argument between Barnabas and Paul, and most amazing of all, a church meeting even resulted in mission.


Does hospitality have a place in the life and witness of the church? Yes it does. Do we practice it often enough? Probably not.

There is so much more to explore around this idea of the hospitality of the kingdom. Even as I presented these ideas there were questions running around my brain. But it is a starting point for more thinking and discussing. Read Wiggy's comment on the other post to see how they are exploring community and hospitality and witness in the summer. All very exciting.

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