Monday, August 23, 2010

Looking Ahead to August 29, 2010 -- 14th Sunday After Pentecost, Year C

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Genesis 18:1-8
  • Hebrews 13:1-3
  • Luke 14:1, 7-14
The Sermon Title this week is Hospitality Hints

Early Thoughts: In recent years hospitality has become a key word in the United Church.  Much ink has been spilled and time spent at workshops about being a "welcoming" and "friendly" church.  But are we sure how or why we do that?

It is easy to think of hospitality as be warm and friendly, as making sure that people are greeted when they arrive and that they know where to go.  And that is important.  But if we stop there I think we miss the radicality of hospitality suggested in Scripture.

Abraham is willing to accept all comers, to feed them and give them something to drink.  And he has no idea if they are honest travellers or bandits.  Will they accept his hospitality or will they murder or rob him?  But Abraham knows that such open hospitality is what is called for in his world.  It could literally be a matter of life or death.

But it is in Luke that we find true radicality.  Luke reminds us that it is not enough to care for the poor and lame and "undesirables".  We must invite them to become part of the community, part of the family.  Unfortunately this is where so many human institutions fall short.

As people who have been taught manners we can (much of the time) be good at swallowing our objections and allowing people who don't seem to belong to come to an event of some sort.  But to actually welcome them in as part of the "in group"?  We need only ask serious questions about instances like the Robert Pickton case to realize that there are still members of our communities who aren't counted as equal members.

Jesus calls us to truly radical hospitality.  Jesus calls us beyond Miss Manners or Emily Post (who would point out that if you are invited somewhere the only decent thing to do is bring a hostess gift and/or reciprocate on the invitation).  Jesus calls us to invite those who can't pay us back.  Jesus calls us to host with no thought of reward.  Jesus calls us to be welcoming not because we may gain but because all those we welcome are part of God's communities.  And, as the writer of Hebrews points out, we may well be entertaining angels in disguise.

So how do we live that out?  This is not a theoretical, what should we do, type of question.  This is a practical what/how are we doing question.  If a "mystery shopper" came in our midst what would they report?  Are we ready to embrace radical hospitality?

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