The Heart of Hospitality (Hospitality VII)
How then do we move into Jesus’ Ministry of Reality, taking the same posture as our Savior in the world?
We simply seek to honor humanity as Jesus does. In short, Jesus’ formula for hospitality becomes ours:
· We ask questions and listen to the stories of those whom God gives us to love.
· We tell the story of God in all the ways we know how.
· We share meals.
We ask questions so that he can hear people’s stories and enter into their lament with them. We seek to put words to all the ways we experience God and His goodness at work around us. We share meals in which stories are told and questions are asked. This movement back and forth—of listening and sharing, giving and receiving—is the heart of hospitality.
Jesus’ way of being with people on the Emmaus Road (and in so many other places) can become our model. It is a picture of how to be with others in their humanity. When we honor people like this, we help to re-humanize them. And in seeking to live into Jesus’ posture, we grow to understand God’s own posture of love and compassion towards us.
This is urgent work. The world grows increasingly disconnected and increasingly lonely. Technology, for all of its benefit, exacerbates our ability to isolate ourselves and to indulge fantasy, fleeing from reality. The world needs neighbors postured as Jesus and empowered by His Spirit. Jesus was prepared to be a neighbor to those that God gave him to love, whether he lived next to them or encountered them on some forgotten village road. He is our model and our teacher. We must joyfully embrace the reality that we can, in his name, make manifest the reign of God as he did.
Let’s start with asking questions.
When was the last time someone asked you questions and really listened? Can you remember? What did it feel like?
This is what Jesus so often did for others.
So what might questions might you ask those that Jesus gives you to love, in order to honor them?
When was the last time you sought to hear someone’s story—your family and friends, your spiritual family, your neighbors and people of peace? When was the last time you asked a neighbor more about their life? People love to be loved, and we love by asking questions. Here’s an exercise, then: Think of three people you love, and think of one or two questions for each that would honor their humanity by creating space for their story to be told. “Hey Bob, we’ve lived by each other for five years, but I realize I don’t know much about where you come from… Where did you grow up? I would love to hear a little bit about your life.”
Take a moment to write down the name of each person and the questions you want to ask them. Then pray for opportunities to love them by honoring them with questions, and by listening generously to their stories.
Hospitality transcends having someone over and involves listening and a posture of curiosity. We can invite people into our homes, but that doesn’t mean we’ve practiced hospitality. It’s not about the act alone, but the posture. Asking questions will lead to more conversation, more dinners, and more opportunities for the Reign of God to be made manifest as we love others.
Of course, we need to be good at small talk, too. We can’t always “turn it up to eleven” with everybody we meet, and that’s not always appropriate. But at the same time, we need to be intentional in training ourselves into Jesus’ way of being with people. Love, after all, is the end-point of discipleship. And the joy of discipleship is getting to be for others in the same way that Jesus is with us. Whenever we get to be forothers, we should give thanks to God because, in the words of one of my favorite musicals, “To love another person is to see the face of God.”
Indeed, Jesus’ picture of discipleship—for all of its trials and all of the “losing of our life”—is also incredibly joyful. It’s full of parties. It’s full of eating meals together, as we see all over the Gospels and especially in the Gospel of Luke. Our challenge is to live into this posture. To learn to be for others. Through us, our neighbors—in our literal neighborhood or wherever they cross our path—may get the sense that God is nearer than they’d hoped and better than they have imagined. Through us, the Reign of God can be made manifest. Through us, Jesus can extend his Ministry of Reality, re-humanizing those he so desperately loves.
So be it, in and through us all.
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See, for example, “Researches Confront an Epidemic of Loneliness” by Kate Hafner. The New York Times, September 5, 2016. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/06/health/lonliness-aging-health-effects.html [May 11th, 2017]
“Finale” from Les Miserables: Original Broadway Cast Recording.Musical, by Cameron Mackintosh. Uni/Geffen. 1987.