Earlier in the year, Professor Deirdre Good from GTS in New York came over to the UK on a personal visit. While she was here she graciously gave time to a seminar and press briefing on her excellent book Jesus' Family Values. She also joined a session at St Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation and Peace on 'hospitality'. Her reflections about this are a powerful challenge to the way we fix personal and social boundaries in less than humanising ways, and then use them to reason with in a self-justifying direction. Inter alia, her narrative exposition of Jesus' life as resurrected on account of its given unity with a fundamentally unrestricted form of life (God's) gets to the heart of how mature Christian theology understands this term - in contrast to the crude accounts of many believers and sceptics. What we are talking about here is a way, truth and life not limited by the forms we take as normative; life-in-its-fullness made possible by a divine giving which is truly gratuitous because it has no need to take a competitive role within a limited economy of relationships. It is God's unlimited love, however fleetingly experienced, that makes possible our renewed practice of hospitality - in the face of all the forces that conspire to deny it: many of which you can read about regularly in the Daily Mail, sadly. Deirdre writes:
"On the road to Emmaus and in a place that is not his, a homeless, resurrected Jesus moves fluidly between roles of stranger, host and guest. Luke's Jesus offers Westerners the challenge of receiving and giving hospitality 'to go.' In Luke's gospel, journeys characterize and shape ministry; Jesus journeys to Jerusalem for most of the gospel while in Acts, disciples and apostles travel from Jerusalem to Samaria, to Europe, and eventually to Rome.
"Hospitality facilitates and defines Jesus' journey to Jerusalem; it identifies followers and disciples who listen and extend welcome (Mary and Martha, the mission of the Seventy, the Good Samaritan, Zacchaeus) and solidifies opposition (some Pharisees and scribes).
"When we relocate the practice of Christian hospitality from who is and who is not welcome in our homes to the recognition that hospitality is offered and received in other places along the way, a different more permeable dynamic opens up. But changing the location of the welcome is only half the solution. Offering someone food in a soup kitchen, while it is a good thing in itself, is not actually hospitality because it is not rooted in an exchange of roles.
"In post-biblical tradition, Abraham, the paradigm of hospitality, moves out of the familiarity of his house. He pitches a tent at the crossroads so as to welcome more strangers, according to the Testament of Abraham. Philo says Abraham ran out of his house and begged the strangers who were passing by his home to stay with him because he was so eager to extend hospitality to them.
"Abraham and Jesus confront our restrictive notions of hospitality, encouraging us to think about our human interdependence in giving and receiving hospitality on the way." Full article here.------------
Deirdre Good's blog is called On Not Being A Sausage (Silvanus). The hospitality article has been slightly adapted from one that originally appeared on Episcopal Cafe. The image of the Emmaus Journey accompanying this article is from a very appropriate editorial on Anglicans Online.