Hospitality and blessing

Proper 11 (July 18, 2010)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Gen. 18:1-10a; Ps. 15; Col. 1:15-28; Lk. 10:38-42

This week we hosted guests from Waterloo, Ontario, and made final preparations for the arrival of five new MCC service workers.

Ingrid and Ryan Rodrick Beiler, from Washington, D.C., will be program administrators in Jerusalem. Rachelle Friesen, from Winnipeg, will be peace development worker for the MCC Palestine/Israel program. Holly and Ryan Snyder Thompson, from Davis, Calif., will be students in residence at a university in Tehran. We are happy about the gifts that each of these new service workers bring to their assignments, and their desire to learn about Middle Eastern culture and faith.

In the region this week, Shir Regev, an Israeli conscientious objector, was sentence to a third prison term for refusing to serve. “I believe it is my personal duty to refuse and defect from an army whose main purpose is to serve as an occupation police for maintaining ‘Israeli order’ and imposing it on defenseless Palestinians who are denied citizenship,” Regev wrote in his statement or refusal.

Eating mansef, the Jordanian national dish, at Taiseer's home near the Syrian border

The Common Lectionary readings this week focus on hospitality and blessing.

In the Old Testament reading, three guests show up at the tent of Abraham and Sarah during the heat of the day (Gen. 18:1-10). Abraham runs out to greet them and begs them to stay. He quickly brings water to wash their feet, and finds a cool place for them to rest while a meal is prepared for them. Before they leave, they promise that, in due season, the elderly Abraham and Sarah will have a son. Abraham and Sarah have generously hosted their guests. Their guests, in turn, have brought a blessing.

The psalmist describes those who will experience hospitality in God’s tent (Ps. 15). It is persons who walk blamelessly and do what is right (v.2a), who speak the truth (v.2b), who do not slander or do evil to their friends (v.3), who hate evil (v.4a), who keep their word (v.4b), and who do not loan money at interest or take bribes (v.5).

The Epistle reading describes a grand vision of hospitality. The fullness of God dwells in Christ (Col. 1:19); and Christ dwells in the church (v.27).

In the Gospel reading, Martha welcomes Jesus into her home (Lk. 10:38-42). But she becomes so distracted with the details of hosting that she doesn’t even have time to sit and listen to Jesus – as does her sister Mary. True hospitality is both giving and receiving. It is sharing our gifts with guests, but remembering to receive the blessing that our guests bring to us as well.

In the Middle East, welcoming guests is seen as both an honor and a duty. Guests – even unexpected guests – are not viewed as an interruption — but as a privilege. When John and Lynn Rempel arrived in Amman this week, they wanted to visit Rasha, an International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP) participant who had stayed in the Rempel’s home in Waterloo several years ago. Immediately, Rasha’s family began to prepare to host the Rempels. Rasha warned her family that Westerners usually already have an agenda planned when they travel. To their credit, the Rempels were willing to be flexible and allow Rasha to plan the details of their three-day visit – including an overnight stay in Rasha’s family home and another night in a tent at Wadi Rum!

We have learned much about hospitality in this place. It is being generous in opening our homes and ourselves to guests, but also remembering that each guest brings a blessing to us.

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