Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hospitality 1

This morning at church we talked about the significance of hospitality and I might post a few times on this topic. A number of weeks ago Scott Mcknight posted a comment on his blog concerning the role that hospitality plays in the advancement of the kingdom of God. I've quoted three paragraphs of his post and made a few comments afterward.

"Today I want to suggest that women took common places and converted them into sacred spaces, and I want to suggest further that women developed “missional centers” in earliest Christianity. And I want to contend that any suggestion that the hospitality women offered in the 1st Century was simply cooking for others or making life easy for others greatly devalues the kind of hospitality women created."

"Martha and Mary illustrate the kind of benefaction women offered Jesus and the Twelve and the kingdom ministers (Luke 8:1-3). Martha and Mary illustrate how to use one’s goods and money for the sake of the kingdom; Jesus criticized the rich and offered consolation to the poor — and called those who followed him to surrender their goods (Mark 10:17-31). These women were illustrations of how to do that: they used their goods for the kingdom."

"One needs to note that women were so much a part of offering hospitality in the early churches that churches got connected to them — notice Acts 12:12; 16:13-15; 16:40; Rom 16:1-5; 1 Cor 16:19; Col. 4:15 and 2 John 1. If the hospitality that is being offered here is truly Jesus-shaped, it is a hospitality that engaged one another in fellowship, in instruction, in learning, and in shaping the kind of kingdom ministry in those communities.
Now, let me make this clear: women did more than this, but this they did in the earliest churches: they converted common places into sacred spaces."

The hospitality aspect really captures my imagination here. We speak of it as almost something optional as if we would be hospitable if we (male or female) were willing or gifted. But the whole New Testament makes little sense without hospitality at the core of how the church developed.

The ministry of Jesus was dependent on the hospitality of those around Him (Mary and Martha, Peter's mother-in-law, etc.). The church was dependent on the hospitality of those in whose homes the church actually met. Hospitality is not an extra but the strategic central concept of the first three hundred years of the church. The household church was where hospitality was embodied and it was the medium of the early church growth.

Our reluctance to show hospitality, or the hospitality that is limited to family and friends, or the marginalization of household hospitality in favour of mega church programs and fellowship suppers is hopefully one of the things being challenged by the emerging church movement.

I think some of those embracing new monasticism (Shane Claiborne and others) have captured some of the essence of biblical hospitality and it challenges me deeply.

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