Hospitality is at the heart and core of what the Church is called to be and to do.  Hospitality is where all of theory is placed into practice.  To see Christ in my neighbor and to be Christ to my neighbor is the high calling to which we are drawn as resurrection people

Hospitality is to make people feel that they belong and that they do not feel they are strangers.  The Greek New Testament uses the term philoxenia which means the love of strangers.  The Latin hospitem became the word for guest or host and in English became the root word of words such as hospital, hostel, and hotel.  St. Benedict, in The Rule, says that the monk is to receive each stranger as Christ.  The concept of hospitality is one of providing a place of safety and security.  The stranger is to be welcomed and made to feel safe.  No stranger is to be turned away and each stranger is to be provided for as if a member of the household.

The Christian tradition reflects the nature of a welcoming God who creates a safe place by presence.  God created a safe place for the original humans and said that all was good.  In the encounters that transpired, human rebellion created an environment of hostility, which, is the opposite of hospitality.  In this hostile state of rebellion, there is enmity between God and God’s creation and all is not good between them. Even God’s action of expelling from the Garden was an act of hospitality, done to prevent them from eating of the Tree of Life which would have made their separation permanent.

God continues as a welcoming God, desiring all to return to their Creator.  The Scriptures are filled with statements about God’s encouragement to welcome the “least of these” (Matthew 25: 40)  In Matthew 25: 35-40,  Jesus says, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger

and you welcomed me.  I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”  As we welcome the “least,” we welcome Christ.

God’s welcoming action is evident in John 1, when it is written, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” (John 1: 14, NRSV)  God comes to welcome God’s people directly by living in their midst.  This “tabernacling” is God’s ultimate expression of hospitality as God comes to welcome back God’s creation.  This Word lived among people and welcomed each into His presence.  The ultimate welcoming action is recorded in Romans 5: 8-10,

“God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us…..For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.”

God is a reconciling God, a God who calls people unto God’s self that all might be reunited and one.  As the Psalmist says, “God is our refuge and strength” (Psalm 46:1).  God provides a safe place.

Hospitality is at the heart and soul of Christian life. The incarnation of Jesus and the power of the Resurrection give impetus to this way of life.  God is a reconciling God who, through Jesus, reconciles God’s self to God’s creation.  There is to be no exclusion, only inclusion.

However, the Christian Church, over the centuries,  has a history that gives the impression that the Church is more interested in excluding people than including people.  This absolutely flies in the face of radical Easter hospitality, which is totally inclusive. Radical hospitality is the Gospel empowered motivation to love each person as she or he might be, and, allow them to be who they are, without judgment.  Radical Easter hospitality is created by a Jesus who bounces back to love, no matter what.  Radical Easter hospitality calls each Christian, alone or in community, to be a safe place for others.

By many, the Christian Church is perceived as being an unsafe place, especially for those who do not follow the precepts brought forth by some of the leaders of the Church.  Jesus did not experience the Jewish tradition of His time to be safe, and one could wonder if Jesus could be safe in the contemporary Christian Church.  The perception by the world is that the Christian Church is bigoted, hateful, controlling and exclusive.

In Germany, I visited with a young adult who told me that he could never be a part of the Christian Church because of the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the fact that the Christian Church does not allow people to think.  Yes, one could argue that the Inquisition and the Crusades took place centuries ago.  In reality, some of the same types of behavior exist today, and people who know history have long memories.  One only has to look at the way most of the Christian Church treats the LGBTQA community and one will understand why some people feel the way they do.  The Church is not always safe to those who are marginalized or different than the acceptable culture.

What makes radical Easter hospitality so different?  Radical Easter hospitality is so different because Jesus responds differently to the exclusive nature of the religious tradition than anyone has ever before.   Let’s review the situation.  Christ had been loved and adored by many, and His feet had been anointed with expensive, perfumed oil.  Christ’s followers sat at the foot of the Rabbi and grew to love Him through his words and actions.  They didn’t fully understand it, but, they knew that Jesus offered something different from what they had heard before. 

Christ  was loved and revered but we also know that Christ had been maligned, rejected, spat upon, beaten, humiliated and murdered.  A normal human reaction to this treatment would be to declare, “I’m done with you.  You are toxic for me.”; then to stay as far away as possible from the people who treated one in that way.

But, not Jesus.  No, instead of staying away, Jesus comes back for more.  In His triumphant resurrection, Jesus returns in glory and the story continues.  Jesus comes to love those who walked away and to reconcile with those who betrayed Him.  Jesus returns with a strong expression of love and forgiveness.  He does not turn people way.  Jesus welcomes them. So, even with Jesus’ action of love, there are those who worship and adore Jesus, those who persecute Jesus, and those of us who do both.

Those living the resurrected life are reminded that Jesus said in Matthew 25 that whatever we have done to the “least of these who are members of my family,” we have done to Jesus.  How diverse have been the things done in Jesus’ name.  In the name of Christ, hospitals were founded and the sick cared for.  In the name of Christ, food has been distributed.  In the name of Christ, workers go out to dig wells so that those who live in impoverished areas might have clean water. In the name of Christ, orphans have been given care and love.  Radical Easter hospitality has led to Christian service in powerful ways.

Yet, again in the name of Christ, people have been slaughtered.  In the name of Christ, His supposed followers engage in bigotry and exclusion as an expression of moral superiority.  In the name of Christ, the culture has developed a system of economics that rewards the rich and oppresses the poor.

How do we respond?  We cannot deal with the Church as a whole.  We can only deal with ourselves and our behavior.

As part of radical Easter hospitality:

  1. Ponder the question, just who would the resurrected Christ actually t turn away from His love and community?  As the Gospel of John states in chapter 3, “God so loved the world….” seems really inclusive to me.  And let us not forget John 3: 17, which says, “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”   Or Romans 8: 1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Why do we think we have the right to condemn others?
  2. In self-reflection and examination, pray that God would reveal areas where you are inclusive, and areas where you might be exclusive?
  3. Pray that in your resurrection transformation, God would grant you the eyes and the heart of the resurrected Lord, to see the world as Jesus sees, it and to love the world as Jesus loves it.

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