Practicing Hospitality

July 19, 2021

By Rev. Rob Parsons

I’ve been trying to live into Luke 10. In that chapter, Jesus sends the 70 out into those places “he himself intended to go” but they were to go before him. They are sent out into the “harvest” without Jesus. Subsequently, they are also told what not to do. Don’t take a purse, a bag, sandals and don’t greet people on the road. Here’s what they are told to do, “Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near you.’”

I wonder how the healing happened. The 12 were sent in a similar fashion in Luke 9 and “went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.”  All this is before the resurrection, before Pentecost, before Jesus gets into town. I wonder how many training sessions they had? I wonder if they performed healings as interns under the guidance of Jesus before being sent out? Did they memorize the right words to say at the right time? Is there a link between the requirement of hospitality and the healing? I don’t know. However, I am open to learning.

Here’s what I have been seeing. When people live close to each other and their lives overlap, trust and care grows among them. When people trust teach other healing can break out. I believe Brian Stevenson has seen this too.

I heard Brian Stevenson speak at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, in April of 2019. Stevenson wrote the book Just Mercy which chronicles his work to exonerate innocent death row prisoners. He founded the Equal Justice Initiative, began the National Memorial for Peace and Justice which honors the African Americans lynched between 1877 to 1950 and has been diligent in the pursuit of justice in many ways over the years. Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa called Stevenson “America’s Nelson Mandela”. What struck me in his speech that night was his point about not wanting to recount past injustices. Instead, he wanted to talk about his plan to change the world. To change the world, he said, take on these four practices.

1.       Get proximate

2.       Change the narrative

3.       Remain hopeful

4.       Be willing to do things that make you uncomfortable or are inconvenient

I believe that the first step of getting proximate with people who aren’t your family or extended family is crucial. The simple act of drawing close to others invites hospitality (although not always, see the shake the dust off your feet part). That hospitality cultivates compassion and builds the relationships in which grace can sprout up and grow.

The WithALL* congregation leans into Luke 10 with the practice of hospitality. We share a meal, share our stories and share our support. and find the Holy Spirit emerging in our midst. Trust thrives, connections grow and we are often surprised by healing. This is when we humbly and joyfully get to point out to our whole community that that is it. That moment right there, is the kingdom of God that has come near to you! That is life seen in Luke 10 that I strive for.

 *(The WithALL name comes from Luke 10:27 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, mind; and your neighbor as yourself)

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