Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
Hospitality is a broad word. It encompasses welcoming, hosting, making someone feel as though they belong, meeting people where they are and everything in between. This word also includes welcoming the stranger in our midst or the immigrant from wherever with open arms, service and a warm heart.
This particular Sunday we will be lifting up those who are hospitable in the realm of immigration. These are folks fighting to really cover areas that we have forgotten with the stranger or even areas we don’t know how to do very well. These are people giving voice to the voiceless.
In fact, it can get so confusing about what this looks like that I am glad we have Jesus to help us out. In our Gospel lesson today, we have examples of not being hospitable and a lesson from Jesus in telling us what to look for to be welcomed. The spectrum is well covered here. On one end, Jesus is thrown out of his hometown and ridiculed. Even though he grew up here, he is shunned because of what he brings to the table. He then turns around and sends out his disciples, telling them to look for the hospitable, to be the foreigner. They are to look for who will house and feed. These are the ones who are open to whatever comes their way, the gifts that the stranger brings.
Hospitality does not appear in just this one instance (or even the lack thereof). Biblically, we are rewarded again and again by welcoming the stranger and the immigrant. God calls us to welcome whoever comes along and we will be blessed by God. This blessing can come in the form of new gifts and graces, or even God recognizing the effort. In addition to being called to be hospitable, the prophet in the first reading hears that we also become the immigrant as we do God’s work.
Those working in the immigration realm, get this. These folks understand that we are blessed by what each immigrant brings to our circles and are heartbroken when people are turned away. They get that each unique person brings talents to the table and everyone is welcome to the table. They get that we have all been in this situation and we appreciated being welcomed into homes and fed. They also understand that while Immigration issues can get political, immigrants are not. We are all human. We are called over and over again to stand up for justice so people aren’t forgotten along the way.
Quotes for the Week
“Hospitality is the practice of God’s welcome by reaching across difference to participate in God’s actions bringing justice and healing to our world in crisis.” ― Letty M. Russell
“True hospitality is marked by an open response to the dignity of each and every person. Henri Nouwen has described it as receiving the stranger on his own terms, and asserts that it can be offered only by those who ‘have found the center of their lives in their own hearts’.”
― Kathleen Norris, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography
“There is no hospitality like understanding.” -Vanna Bonta
“Recognize yourself in he and she who are not like you and me.” ― Carlos Fuentes
Ezekial 2:1-5 (NRSV)
He said to me: O mortal,stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you. And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.
Mark 6: 1-13 (NRSV)
He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.
Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
Questions for the Week
Who do you know that demonstrates hospitality well?
What do they do that highlights welcoming?
How can we be more hospitable to those we meet who might be different than ourselves?