A Strange New World

This week, and next, our Devotional is authored by a member of staff here at MCM.  But more than that she is devoted to our Mission and embodies that embracing love.  Everyday she is stepping out of her comfort zone, helping others and ministering to those in need.  Our Everyday Congregation even calls her “Pastor”.  Lauri Muller is our Development and Children’s Ministries Director(s) and an amazing woman.  Lauri pours herself into her work helping those in financial need, in stress and pain, those who just need a loving ear and passing on these important lessons to our youngest congregants.  Thank you Lauri for opening your glowing and gifted heart to those around you!

REFLECTION

Hospitality means more than making family and guests welcome in our homes; it is about providing for the needs of any person we encounter, particularly the stranger. In biblical times, this was often widows, orphans, the poor, and sojourners from other lands— people who lacked status in a family or the community. Hospitality meant graciously welcoming such people in one’s land, home, or community and providing directly for their needs of food, water, shelter, clothing, and respect.

Jesus both taught hospitality and modeled it in his actions of welcoming strangers, eating with tax collectors and sinners, meeting a foreign gentile woman at the well, and healing without regard to nationality or religion. Jesus appeared as a stranger when he joined two followers on their way to Emmaus (Luke 24:28–35). Only when they invited the resurrected Jesus to share the table and bread were their eyes opened to his presence.

When we welcome others to our tables and homes and church, strangers who are guests can become divine hosts. Early gatherings for worship were often household-based where acts of hospitality were extended, and the image of the church, as the household of God, had powerful resonance (e.g., Ephesians 2:19; 1 Timothy 3:15). Because converts came from many backgrounds and shared meals the home became an important location for building unity and a new identity, for transcending social differences, and for making sure that the local poor were fed (e.g., Acts 2:46; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34). Hospitality was practically necessary and theologically central.

What does this hospitality mean for us today? Where are the opportunities for us to entertain angels? If we are serious about the call to action we are challenged with in today’s scripture, what does it mean to…

  1. Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.

2.  Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!

3.  Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.

This passage is about community and justice. None of the things the author exhorts us to do can be accomplished alone. We need to have others in our lives with whom to share mutual love, support, and accountability. As embodied members of Christ, it is our duty and privilege to care for, nurture, and help others, fully empathizing with their circumstances. We are admonished to treat all of our relationship from our immediate family and spouse, our community and even the stranger with the love that Christ exemplified for us through sacrifice, peace, forgiveness and guidance.

This passage is about taking the sacrifice and love of Christ and not just remembering it but rather receiving it. So when Jesus calls us to remember at the table, we are being invited not just to remember in our minds but rather to receive him fully. In the same way, when we are called to remember those in prison, we are called to receive them as well. Not just in our prayers, which is a part of the call, but to bring them into our lives. Together with Jesus at the table, you, the prisoner and I are brought by him into a relationship that breaks down all divisions of status, race and gender. We remember that we, too, are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.

“Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever” has been scrutinized by scholars to more accurately mean Jesus is faithful. Too often we equate, Jesus being the same, to mean that people or religion or beliefs are always the same. The latter are our experiences and expressions of Jesus in our life and those should change. They should grow as Jesus remains faithful and constant regardless of where we are. We can receive this good news and be mindful that Jesus remains faithful to us and to the stranger and calls us into community together wherever we are.

QUOTES

“To practice hospitality in our world, it may be necessary to evaluate all the laws and all the promotions and all the invitation lists of corporate and political society from the point of view of the people who never make the lists. Then hospitality may demand that we work to change things.”                                                                                                                                    -Joan Chittister from Wisdom Distilled from the Daily

“In community, there will always be a series of losses, giving something up to gain something more. But in the giving up, we find better versions of ourselves. And that’s not easy either.”                                                                                                                                              – Chris Heuertz, Unexpected Gifts

“When we deceive ourselves into thinking that remembering means reciting or lecturing, we lose sight of the fact that remembering really means receiving.”                                            – Gerhard E. Frost, Bible teacher, seminary professor and author of Journey of the Heart

 

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”                                                                                                                       – Desmond Tutu

“The Church confesses Christ, who has broken down the dividing wall (Ephesians 2:14). Christ, our peace, has put an end to the hostility of race, ethnicity, gender, and economic class. The Church proclaims Christ, confident this good news sets at liberty those captive behind walls of hostility (cf. Luke 4:18).”                                                                                        –Excerpt from the ELCA Social Statement on: FREED IN CHRIST: RACE, ETHNICITY, AND CULTURE

SCRIPTURE

Hebrews 13:1-8  New Living Translation (NLT)

1 Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.

Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.

Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,

“I will never fail you.  I will never abandon you.”

So we can say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”

Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

QUESTIONS FOR THE WEEK

The Bible recounts numerous stories of God’s calling folks individually but in each case, the call is to equip them to be sent back into the community of God’s people. How might the struggle to provide hospitality be healthier if we join ourselves together in addressing issues as a community?

In the self-help section of any bookstore are hundreds of titles: diets, self-esteem guides, toolkits for a happier marriage, and manuals to more effective management of every imaginable topic. Is the cry for self-help a lament that community has been lost?

Are there moments you now recall where you have entertained angels without realizing it or someone has extended hospitality to you in that way?

Who is a stranger in your life?

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