Saturday, July 30, 2016

11 Pentecost Yr C Proper 13 July 31 2016



11 Pentecost Yr C Proper 13 July 31 2016 Audio

It was a bumper crop, a good year. What does a farmer do with a bumper crop? This farmer, in the parable today, decides that he'll pull down the barns that he has, and build new ones to hold this bumper crop. So then he can relax and rely on his wealth. He has earned his contentment. He is happy and then he dies. Isn’t that the way it is supposed to be? Isn’t this good news? And yet, this farmer is called a fool, what is so foolish about what he has done?

I think this is a story about the perennial seduction of greed; it is about the perennial seduction of idolatry. Today we may call it conspicuous consumption and it has many faces and facets. And I believe this teaching is as urgent in our time as it must have been in the 1st century.

So there’s this story about a man, Matt. Matt is over eighty years old, and has worked very hard all of his life. Because he saved his money very carefully, Matt is probably very wealthy. He has never married and has no family, except for his sister, who lives with him. Matt's home is a very modest one, and he scrupulously watches every penny that he spends. But he also has his treasure, and it sits in his garage, covered by a thick canvas cloth. It is a restored car, worth more than many people's homes, and Matt loves that car. He spends most of his waking hours sitting in an old chair in front of the open garage door, guarding his treasure. If anyone happens to walk by – the mail carrier, a visitor to a neighbor's home, a repair person, Matt is quick to call that person back to his garage to show him the car, barely lifting up the cover and letting them have just a peek at a corner of his prized automobile. Whenever he talks about the car, Matt gets a gleam in his eye as if he is talking about the most wonderful thing in the world. But if the subject is just about anything else, Matt grows angry and cynical. The world is a corrupt and terrible place, he says, and everyone is a crook. He often talks about how to protect himself and his property, even if he has to use his gun to do so. In the two years since Matt bought this car, it has never been out of that garage. It has never been taken out from under that thick canvas covering. Matt has never taken it for a ride, never shared the thrill of driving down some beautiful, winding, wooded road with his sister or a friend at his side.

I’m not sure that Matt is wrong, or his love for his car is wrong, it isn’t about being right or wrong. It is about priority though, and that’s why greed is so foolish and so seductive. It’s not the purchase of the vehicle, or the latest gadget, or the big house, or the shares of stock, that is problematic. It’s the misplaced priority about that. It’s turning the object into the idol, it’s turning ones attention into oneself and away from others, away from the common good, away from the Creator.

The Colossians passage demands that our attention be turned away from greed and toward Christ, who is all and in all. Greed is a way of worshipping wrong gods. In fact, the Colossians passage shows us that we must die to that which is killing us. That’s what greed does; it kills us, that’s what was happening to our man Matt. The by-product of greed and idol worship is the bitterness that builds up in our hearts and our souls, little by little, bit by bit. Greed is self-destructive. Colossians commends a new-self, the one baptized into Christ, who centers life not on self, but on mercy, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and forgiveness. There is a genuine alternative to the seduction of greed and idols. We need to know where we stand and to whom we belong.

There are many preachers, who seem to get all the TV airtime and the press, that preach a gospel of prosperity. It’s the message that if you do the right things, pray the right way, even believe the right words, you will be rewarded with riches. Reading the Gospel of Luke and Colossians, I don’t know how that message can be found. It is so clear that the life of following Jesus is not about getting more and getting ahead. The life of following Jesus is about dying to that which is killing you, to be raised to new life clothed in Christ. Life in Christ is to be free to be merciful and compassionate, nonjudgmental and inclusive.

What do you worship? What is your idol? What is killing you? What foolish treasures do you store up? These questions also need to be addressed to us as a church, and us as society. What is it that holds us hostage, that keeps us in bondage, that we need to die to, so that we may be free to be a merciful and compassionate society, a society of neighbors, like the compassionate Samaritan, rather than a society of mean-spirited people. What is it that we must die to so that we may be in relationship with one another and with God? What are our idols? How do we choose against the foolishness of storing up treasures? I don’t have the solution for you or for us, just some suggestions for adjusting our attitude toward wealth. First, we may need to realize that wealth is not happiness, that money and possessions do not bring peace of mind. Second, we may need to decide to share rather than hoard. Sharing is a biblical imperative, even if some call it by another name. Third, we may need to make a commitment to serve God instead of money. While it is important to be responsible about money, to plan for our retirement and our needs, we should also plan for what someone has called our "expirement" – for the death that came unexpectedly to the rich fool in this parable told by Jesus. We need to ask if our lives, in all their multi-faceted and multi-tasking glory, reflect the priorities God would like us to have.

Whenever we worship the created rather than the Creator, we have lowered our sights and limited our vision – we have "missed the mark," which is the definition of sin. It doesn't mean that material things are evil in themselves. Not at all. God's creation is good. It is the "Who" that's at the center of our lives that matters. And it is how we regard the things that we have that is central to our well-being in God's eyes. And it is well-being in God's eyes that constitutes the good life.

Everything we have is a gift from God. We may work hard, but what we have is a gift, not a reward. Wealth is a means, not an end. We have seen in our own lifetimes incredible bouts of greed – in the 80's, and the 90's, and the terrible price we are now paying for the greed of recent years – no wonder that we have given way to disillusionment and hunger for what truly satisfies. No wonder we live in a time of such fearmongering, such preying on our wants and desires to have more and to get more.

Everything we have is a gift from God. We deserve none of it, the Love that wins our hearts and minds and souls, is what satisfies.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

10 Pentecost Yr C Proper 12 July 24 2016



10 Pentecost Yr C Proper 12 July 24 2016 Audio

Jesus was praying, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, Lord, teach us to pray. Jesus responded in three ways. First, Jesus gave the disciples words to pray with. Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.

Then, the gospel writer Luke shows the disciples what that prayer looks like. Luke has Jesus tell a story of a relationship. There is a person who needs some food for a visitor, even though the visitor arrives in the middle of the night. That person goes to the door of his friend, maybe his neighbor, and knocks on the door in the middle of the night and asks for some bread. The friend sounds mightily irritated to be awoken in the middle of the night, but the story suggests that he did in fact after a little convincing, give over the bread. Prayer is about relationship, and prayer is about sharing bread. Sometimes those who practice a life of prayer are accused of doing nothing. But prayer is not doing nothing, indeed, prayer is doing what needs to be done.

And then what we hear from Luke this morning is about boldness. What we have before us is not just the so familiar words we pray as the Lord’s Prayer, but we have those words in the context of relationship and bread and boldness. Ask, search, knock. Jesus' instruction invites trust and boldness, ask, search, knock, confident that you will receive what you ask. There is no one among us listening who would give a snake or a scorpion to a beseeching child, so how then, Jesus implies, can we not trust that God as divine parent will give us all that we need, including and especially the Holy Spirit?

Jesus seems most interested, at this point, in an invitation to a relationship rather than an explanation about the technique of prayer. Prayer is not a list, but a relationship. In this passage Jesus invites us into relationship with God through prayer, offering us the opportunity to approach the God whose name is too holy to speak and whose countenance too terrible to behold with the familiarity, boldness, and trust of a young child running to her parent for both provision and protection.

I do think that we tend to get caught up in all sorts of questions about prayer. How do we pray? What do we pray for? And the big ones, does God answer prayer and does prayer change God? Just as Jesus gave the disciples words to pray with, we Episcopalians have all sorts of beautiful prayers that have been handed to us through generations of the faithful in our Book of Common Prayer, and we have wonderful new prayers that broaden our imaginations. However we are a little bit challenged by extemporaneous prayer. We tend to be formed as people of well thought out and constructed prayer. We tend to rely on the beautiful words of those who came before us. When we are wordless, when the feeling we have is so awesome, so fearful, so sad, so joyful that we are left wordless, speechless, these prayers of our people can lift us up and carry us along.

And there are times, like Anne Lamott writes in a book called Traveling Mercies, that our two best prayers are, "help me, help me, help me" and "thank you, thank you, thank you." Like Anne Lamott suggests, spontaneous prayer comes without thinking. We pray like that all the time.

The point of all of this is that prayer is the work we do in building our end of the relationship we have with God. That relationship is both personal and corporate. Each of us engages the relationship in a very personal way, and need to discover a personal prayer life that is intentional, spirit filled and nurturing. There are myriad ways to grow our personal prayer; one size does not fit all. Personal prayer even changes over time, depending on where and when life takes us.

It’s only in the last few years I have been able to sit in quiet prayer. With young children, trying to find quiet time was near impossible, and if I tried to be quiet to begin my day, before anyone else was awake, I just fell asleep again. I also needed to exercise, so I did that early in the morning while everyone else was still asleep, and I learned that I could combine prayer and exercise. That is a discipline I continue even though small children have become large. But I have also found that I can spend some time now in quiet prayer, without fidgeting and without falling asleep, most of the time.

We also engage our relationship with God in a corporate way. We gather together in prayer, in fact that is who we are as Episcopalians, people who share common prayer. We sing together, we have silence together, we say our prayers together, we read and hear scripture together, we eat together, and together we are sent out into the world to continue the work God has given us to do.

Bottom line though, is that prayer is a relationship, and a relationship must be worked at, it can’t be taken for granted or set aside, or it will fail. This relationship with God has at its foundation good faith and reciprocal love. It is a relationship that is transformative. "I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me," writes C.S. Lewis. Prayer is really much more about us than about God. Prayer is about our overflowing need to know our creator, and to be known by our creator.

And yet I speak of boldness in prayer. How do we speak of boldness in this relationship with God? Especially when in our ears we hear, blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth. How do we speak of asking for what we want, when it seems like God should already know that. Ask, search, knock. I think being bold and courageous in our prayer makes us clearer about what we are asking. I think being bold and courageous in prayer makes us discern what it is we really need. As we are bold in prayer, who we need to be, what we need to do, whom we need to serve, begins to dawn on us like a beautiful mountain sunrise. A sunrise that illuminates all else.

And I know that God always responds to prayer. Often that response is, no Kathy, not now, not ever. Sometimes that response is a surprise to me. I, in my infinite wisdom, would not do it the same way God does it. C.S. Lewis has also written, “There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "All right, then, have it your way."”

Does prayer really work? I turn to Barbara Brown Taylor, a wonderful preacher and writer, in her collection Home by another way. She says about prayer, "It keeps our hearts chasing after God’s heart. It’s how we bother God, and it’s how God bothers us back. There’s nothing that works any better than that.”

Be bold, be courageous in your prayer and your relationship with God. And then do, do the thing, love, forgive, heal, feed, do the thing your prayer asks. You are the change you ask for.

Amen.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

9 Pentecost Yr C Proper 11 July 17 2016



9 Pentecost Yr C Proper 11 July 17 2016 Audio

My favorite high school teacher was Mr. Everett Anderson, we affectionately called him Ev. He was a diminutive man. Most of us took his Shakespeare class and actually loved it. Ev could be caught jumping up and down and on top of desks with excitement. Most of us claim him as our favorite teacher, but he didn’t look like or act like or sound like the kind of person any of us would consider cool. Ev taught us about learning, about passion, about reading, and about getting along with one another. Jesus seems to choose the most unlikely teachers for us. The hated Samaritan man, the woman at the well, the child at his feet, the sinners with whom he ate, instead of respected Pharisees or lawyers, instead of authoritative experts or great prophets. However, the teachers Jesus has chosen for us are teachers who do the unexpected and who are the unexpected, like my favorite high school teacher. The Priest and the Levite in the compassionate Samaritan story we read last week, really do exactly what is expected of them. These Holy Men were not allowed to be unclean, therefore they could not touch the man who had been beaten, so they had to, in fact they were required to cross the road.

Our dear Martha in our story today does what is expected of her when she is entertaining people in her home, she can’t be blamed for that. You know what it’s like to have people over to your home for a meal, and Martha has this added stressor, Jesus is actually important in her circle of friends. You know what it’s like to spend the whole day cleaning, you know what it’s like to plan the menu, to buy the groceries, to prepare the meal, to set the table, to get everything just right. And you know what it’s like to feel like you’re in it alone, when no one steps up to help. You get a bit resentful, maybe even cross. You may even say out loud to whoever is close enough to hear, “doesn’t anyone care that I’ve got to do all this work myself?” Ahh, Martha, we are so much like you.

Martha actually has much to teach us. She reminds us of the value and sacredness of the work of hospitality. She reminds us never to take that work for granted; she reminds us that to even begin to meet Jesus, we welcome all comers with food and drink.

It's why it' so important to me to welcome all at this thanksgiving table. And it is why it is so important to me to “stay at the table.” What I mean by that is that I am committed to being part of the community of people who are Christians, of all types and varieties, and the community of people who are not Christians, because I think that we all have something to learn from one another, because I don’t think that there is only one way to follow Jesus, and because I know that staying out of difficult conversation effectively silences our voice, and I am not interested in being silenced. The metaphor of “staying at the table” is a metaphor of hospitality. Martha reminds us that the work of doing, of setting the table and inviting all to come, is very important work indeed.

But that is not the only piece of the story today. In the midst of Martha’s frustration with Mary, we also have Mary's story.

Mary becomes an unlikely teacher today. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet, in the company of men, receiving all that Jesus has to teach. Mary is doing the unexpected, and making Martha quite mad in the process. Luke’s gospel shows us what the Kingdom of God is like. The Kingdom of God is like Martha working in the kitchen, and Mary learning at Jesus’ feet.

I think the most helpful way to read this story is in relationship to the story about the compassionate Samaritan. The pairing of these stories point to the importance of doing and hearing in the Gospel of Luke. The placement of these two stories illustrates that it's doing AND hearing, not doing OR hearing that matters. When the lawyer in the compassionate Samaritan story asked about the bottom line of what it means to be saved, Jesus goes to the heart of the matter by telling a story about love in action on the part of a hated stranger toward his most unexpected neighbor. In today's story, we hear that sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening carefully is also important, right at the heart of things, too.

Mary listens to Jesus, and the Kingdom is near. We live in a world that seems to equate busyness with importance, and a long to-do list, especially when it's finally completed, gives us a sense of satisfaction and even security…at least, until we start on a new list of tasks to be completed. Our days are full, one after another, of many things, and our minds are full and overflowing, worried and distracted, sometimes like Martha, by many things.

Can you imagine what life would be like, even for a little while, without all of the things that keep us busy? Can you imagine what life would be like, even for a little while, without all the talking we do? Can you imagine what life would be like, even for a little while, just listening to what Jesus may be saying? It may be a little like the Kingdom.

It seems to me that we can't hear God still speaking if we don't stop, not just sometimes but regularly, and just sit and listen, like Mary at the feet of Jesus. How can the Stillspeaking God get a word in edgewise over the cell phones, voicemail, television, and Internet and Pokemon hunting that bombard us? How can we tend to our internal lives like careful gardeners who spend time nurturing new growth, pulling weeds when necessary, and gently showering the thirsty green plants with refreshing water?

Our teachers today, the dreamer Mary, the practical Martha, show us the wisdom of balance. Mary shows us the wisdom of quiet listening, of expectant listening, of listening for the voice of Jesus, of dreaming. Martha shows us the wisdom of hospitality. Our job is to find the balance, to make room for both ways to meet God and greet God, and in the encounter, the Kingdom is near.

And then, there is Jesus. The story is probably really about Jesus. Jesus offers love to both Martha and Mary. In this story, neither are excluded, Mary and Martha are Jesus' beloved followers. In this world, where we label and divide people and choose not to love based on difference, Jesus shows us that love is possible. In this world, where agreement seems to be more valuable than difference, Jesus shows us that the nature of love receives the beauty and uniqueness of all of humanity. Jesus shows us that each and every life matters. Amen.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

8 Pentecost Yr C Proper 10 July 10 2016



8 Pentecost Yr C Proper 10 July 10 2016 Audio

A priest, a Presbyterian minister and a baptist preacher, go out fishing. They toss all their stuff in the boat, and push off for the middle of the lake. Once out there, the priest realizes he forgot his lures. So he stands up and steps out of the boat and walks to the shore, gets what he needs and comes on back to the boat. A little later, the Presbyterian minister gets hungry and realizes he forgot his sandwich in the car, so he steps out of the boat, walks to the shore, gets his sandwich and comes on back to the boat. Well, the baptist preacher had left his jacket in the car and it was getting a little chilly, so he stepped out of the boat just like the others, but fell right into the water. The priest said to the Presbyterian minister, do you think we should have told him where the stones are?

Whether or not this is a funny joke, we laugh, or we groan, because we’ve been set-up, we know the form, the pattern, and can guess at the punch line. It’s based on our common stereotypes of these three characters. It’s like the story that is embedded in Luke’s gospel today, a priest, a levite, and a Samaritan go into a bar…. O wait, that should be a Jew, not a Samaritan. Everyone knows the joke and the punch line relies on the Jew, not the Samaritan.

What’s happening here? Those who heard this story originally would have been shocked long before the storyteller ever gets to the punch line, because the 1st century hearer would think “a priest, a Levite and a Samaritan would never be in the same story.”

You see, the shocking joke here is that it is the Samaritan who is compassionate. Let's look at these people in their own culture. The priest and the Levite shared high status in the community of God’s people. They were “temple people.” They were born into priestly families. They were very concerned with status, they epitomized the temple culture of those who are in and those who are out, they were in and just about everyone else was out. Within their world, their association with the temple commends them as persons of exemplary piety whose actions would be regarded as self-evidently righteous. The priest and the Levite were accustomed to being evaluated on the basis of their ancestry, their pedigree, not on the basis of their performance.

So the teller of this story has established these two holy men who have done their business at the temple in Jerusalem, and who are now traveling on the dangerous road to Jericho. They see a man by the side of the road beaten and bleeding, and each pass to the other side of the road instead of helping.

Into the picture arrives the Samaritan, and everyone who is hearing this story laughs. A Samaritan, they exclaim, Samaritans are no good lazy bums. They don’t even go to the temple in Jerusalem to worship, they keep to themselves, they are just not like us. Maybe we should build a wall to keep those Samaritans out. You see, the Samaritan is a man who is in direct contrast to the holy men of the temple. He has no pedigree, he is a merchant, he worships at a different temple. It is this distinction that makes this story shocking.

You and I have heard the story of the Good Samaritan so many times we just about know it by heart. We miss the shocking punch line. The Samaritan as the one who has compassion for the beaten and bleeding man at the side of the road is shocking. And, the actions of the Samaritan man condemn the holy men’s failure to act.

So what can this very familiar story reveal to us today? The story of the compassionate Samaritan is embedded in the story about a lawyer who has come to Jesus asking about eternal life. First, the lawyer asks Jesus what he must to do inherit eternal life. Jesus answers that question with the story of the compassionate Samaritan, and then the lawyer is able to identify who in the story was the neighbor and the lawyer is told by Jesus to go and do likewise. Today I would like for you to entertain the idea that this story is not just about being good, and it's not about being a hero. I would like you to see its complexity.

The story of the compassionate Samaritan is an illustration of appropriate behavior for a person who loves God and who expects to inherit eternal life. Remember, we’ve talked about this before, when Luke uses the term eternal life, he is referring to the new creation that is a reality in the life of those who profess Jesus Christ as Son of God. The term eternal life is not narrowly defined by what happens after death. It is about the absolutely new life that is the gift of God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is about living in the here and now as much as it is about the hereafter. Therefore the story of the compassionate Samaritan is about an ethic of compassion, it is about how we are related to our neighbors, it is about the love that wins.

The setting to the story is on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. This is a very dangerous road, as most travel on foot was in this 1st century rural setting, replete with robbers and full of the possibility of violence. And Jerusalem is the city where the temple is. Many people would be traveling between Jerusalem and Jericho after visiting the temple in Jerusalem.
The Samaritan is the one who participates in the compassionate and covenantal faithfulness of God, not the holy men. This is not just a story about a good guy who helped someone out. This parable of the compassionate Samaritan undermines the system of status and honor based on privilege that was the way things were in 1st century culture. Once again, Luke is telling us a story that shows how the kingdom of God is near; the kingdom of God is about reordering human interactions.

The conclusion of Luke’s story has Jesus asking the lawyer, who himself has a pedigree, who in this story is the neighbor. The lawyer answered correctly, and Jesus admonishes him to go and do likewise. Eternal life is about compassionate interaction regardless of honor and status, race or gender.

This is as hard a message to hear in the 21st century as it was in the 1st century. In these days I wonder if we've progressed at all. The challenge here is to reject the sinful categories we use to turn other human beings into labels instead of persons bearing the image of the living God. Jesus shows us that we are honorable and valuable because we are God’s creation. Jesus’ life shows us that in God’s eyes everyone has a place in God’s house, in God’s kingdom. Jesus pours out his life so that we may know that truth. Jesus fills us with new life so that we may have abundant love for ourselves and for others.

As I spent time this week thinking about this story that I know so well, and, as a country we have experienced the tragedy of gun death over and over again, and the death of Elie Weisel, who was a concentration camp survivor, it is vital that we hear this story about the compassionate Samaritan for what it is. We are more like the holy people than we are like the Samaritan. Elie Weisel, in his life and work has said, the opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.

We are followers of Jesus, do not be indifferent. We need to be a sign of hope and of healing. We need to be agents of hope and of healing. Find ways to do that, find ways to show forth God's love. Find ways to be compassionate, find ways bear God's love and healing into all the places you find yourselves.

Amen.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

7 Pentecost Proper 9 July 3 2016



7 Pentecost Proper 9 July 3 2016 Audio

Recently, the readings from Luke have been about the unfailing love and abundant grace that God has for us. We have heard how that love and grace calls us into relationship with God, and how that transforms us. We have heard that God does not call us away or out of the world, but instead calls us to do our work, to be in relationship, to go about our business in a way that is new, in a way that reveals God’s unfailing love and grace to the world. This work that God calls us to is also called discipleship. This is our call, this is our work. And the gospel of Luke is all about being a disciple.

To be a disciple or to do the work that God calls us to, is to be on a journey of active faith formation, and to be a disciple is to be part of God's dream of love and healing in this world. That is what Luke means when he writes about God coming near. This is called the kingdom of God. And according to Luke, the kingdom of God is about reordering human interaction, we see that when Jesus brings to the center those people on the margins. And the kingdom of God is about loving one another as God has loved us.  A sign of this love, a sign of God's dream in our interactions, is offering peace to all people we encounter.

In this gospel passage from Luke, we learn that God's call, God's love, God's kingdom, includes everyone. And we learn that discipleship, God's love, God's kingdom is about radical hospitality.

In the New Revised Standard Version translation we just read, we heard that Jesus appointed seventy disciples and sent them out in pairs. However, many New Testament scholars are convinced the earliest transcripts read 72. And the reason this is important, is that seventy-two is a significant number. At the time Luke’s story was told, the number of the world’s nations is seventy-two. Seventy-two is also reckoned in an apocryphal book, called Enoch, as the number of princes and the number of languages in the world. And according to legend, seventy-two elders were commissioned to translate the law from Hebrew to Greek, a project undertaken in order to win renown throughout the whole world for the Jews and their God.

So, seventy-two really means everyone, everyone is sent out, but never sent out alone. So now it is not just the original Jewish disciples of Jesus that spread the Good News of God in Jesus Christ. It is gentiles as well, and it is all of us; every one of us is a disciple and we are all called to spread the Good News.

Last Wednesday the church celebrated the feast day of St. Peter and St. Paul. A gift that St. Peter and St. Paul give to us in the 21st century is the gift of disagreement. At the very beginnings of the church, these two important church leaders could not agree on who’s in and who’s out. The argument about circumcision which is referred to in the Galatians passage, was a huge argument in the 1st century. Basically, the question was, do disciples of Jesus have to be circumcised as a Jew before they can be baptized? This question was really about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, and what it means to be Jew. It is a question that caused communities to stop talking to each other; it caused communities to split apart and even stop eating together. The answer to the question however, was always, Love one another as God has loved you. And, a sign of that love was to settle your differences before you come to the table to eat. St. Peter and St. Paul taught us to agree to disagree, because we are all part of one family. The way St. Peter and St. Paul taught us to agree to disagree is to practice radical hospitality.

And that is what this passage before us today is about. All of us are called to radical hospitality; all of us are called to offer God's love and hospitality to everyone we meet.

This example of hospitality shows us both sides, how to offer hospitality, and how to receive hospitality.

Jesus sends the seventy-two out to do the work of preaching and teaching, and harvesting the fruits of that labor. Jesus sends them with instructions. Those instructions are about how to receive hospitality. First say “peace to this house” and then stay there and eat and drink, cure the sick and preach the Good News. If they do not welcome you, if they do not offer hospitality, leave in protest, and know that the kingdom of God has come near. We need to remember what Luke means when he writes about Jesus ushering in the kingdom of God. It is the reordering of human interactions. Jesus brings those who are on the margins to the center, those who are first will be last, those who are out will be in.

What does the discipleship of radical hospitality look like for us? As disciples, as followers of Jesus, we are called to welcome the stranger. We are called to offer rest, to wash their feet, and a place at the table. When we offer this radical hospitality, we act as disciples and the kingdom of God is near. We, as disciples, are called to offer hospitality to everyone, people we agree with, people we disagree with, people that look like us, people who look different than us, people that we grew up with, people who are strangers.

As disciples we are also called to go out into the world, walking along side one another, and say to all we meet, Peace to you, peace to your house, peace to your people. We are to take the gospel seriously, be transformed by it and offer it’s message of hospitality to all we meet, to all whose paths we cross, and to all who come alongside us as we journey together. In this age of rampant individualism and consumerism, offering hospitality and walking alongside one another, including and especially those who are different from us, is a radical and difficult call. This encounter requires attentive listening and willingness to enter into another’s world and be transformed by this world. This encounter requires dependence, and for folks who value independence above much else, this is a radical and difficult call. Dependence on God, and one another, the Body of Christ. There are few things more satisfying and life giving, it turns out, than sharing with others, giving of our abundance, receiving in our need, all the while being knit more closely together as the Body of Christ, very different witness to people in this world who would exclude, divide, and keep out.

Peace to this house, peace to your house, peace to the stranger’s house.