Open my eyes that I might see Psalm 119:18 I remember a time while I was waiting in line to return an item, a woman at the counter had dropped all of the contents from her wallet on the floor. Almost immediately, another young woman who was also at the counter helped to pick up the contents. A gentleman behind me waiting in line remarked; “That’s something you don’t see up north.” I suppose he was comparing the behavior to people in other geographic areas. The gentleman’s comment reminded me that we can’t know what someone is like without first having experienced them. If we assume that kindness is only found in specific geographic areas, why aren’t all of us as believers, living in those places? If we are not experiencing kindness from others in our current place, then others may not be experiencing kindness from us as well. Yet, if Christ is within us, then perhaps we are where we are in order that God working through us, we remember to demonstrate the kindness, that others like to see not only in the north, but the south, east and west as well.
Navigating the Wilderness
…there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile… Mark 7:1-23 One summer I went south to visit my paternal grandmother. While there I took her to the market because she wanted to fix a roast for dinner. I took it upon myself to help her find just the right piece of lean beef that I could find. One look and she quickly rejected everything I pulled out. Finally she reached down and pulled up a piece of meat that had the thickest strip of fat running right through the middle. While handing me her selection she pointed to that strip of fat and said in her small southern voice; “that’s what makes it tendah” and tender it was! I was concerned about eating lean. She was concerned about eating food that tasted good. We can’t always control everything and in this situation I didn’t want to. The week I spent with her I am certain I gained a few pounds, not merely from the food but primarily from her outpouring of hospitality in love I was blessed to receive. The pounds I could lose, but her love I have forever.
But Martha was distracted by her many tasks... Luke 10:38-42 Honestly, what was Martha doing? She apparently thought it was very important to take care of some things. As Mary chose to sit at her guest’s feet Martha choses to work and not only does she chide her sister for not helping her she expected Jesus to support her choice to do so. For the first time as I read this passage I can see Christ smiling in his response to Martha. When we make unexpected visits it’s usually to homes of people with whom we have some relationship. Generally we don’t go with any expectations but rather to sit, visit and spend some time with people we love. Sometimes the host chooses to work through the visit. My paternal grandmother did this all the time, insisting that she prepare a meal first then sit and talk over the meal. My maternal grandmother on the other hand would sit and chat awhile and then ask if you wanted something to eat. There was always that awkward time during which the meal was being prepared. Either way, I always left well fed, both physically and spiritually. Perhaps Martha simply got caught up in the logistics of the unexpected visit. Jesus’ response was to help Martha understand that if a choice had to be made, Mary made the better choice. In any event people do have to eat! Together, the sister team of Mary and Martha actually made for a great combination of hosts!
…because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. Luke 11:1-13 I find it interesting that Jesus points out the nuances in the art of friendship. I remember the times when well after dinnertime and my kitchen had been cleaned and “closed”, my mother after traveling on the road, would sometimes drop by my house unannounced with a friend and ask what I had to eat. I was always happy to see my mother and her friends but not so happy that I usually ended up having to clean my kitchen again. It never stopped her from showing up unannounced and I feel blessed that as I became an adult my mother became my friend. I am blessed that she felt comfortable enough to bring her friends to my house and “raid” my kitchen after hours. I suppose only a mother friend could get away with something like that. It’s like that with God as well. We have a tendency to show up before God after having traveled through a tremendous experience asking for sustenance, seeking refuge and knocking with the expectation that the door will be opened. Christ assures us that God is a much better friend than any one of us could ever be. And its a good thing because some interesting conversations and shared wisdom always came out of those late night kitchen raids. The good news for us is that God’s kitchen is always open.
“For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:1-13
When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ John 2:1-22 This story reminds me of the times when we would visit friends of my parents and after we had all finished our meal my mother would prevent the host from cleaning up the table and freely offer the services of my sister and I. She not only insisted that we clean the table but the dishes and entire kitchen as well. I hated it! After all was I not also a guest! I know that had I given a response like Jesus gave his mother, my mother would have given me a look that let me know that the matter would be dealt with later. At any rate, it certainly would not have gotten me out of my servitude and neither does Christ’s response keep him from doing what his mother is requesting. I now understand this experience as a lesson in hospitality. It’s is not a one-way experience. It’s also not something we only do when we invite someone to our home. We always have something to offer others whether it is a simple smile or hello, helping someone with his or her bags, or allowing someone to merge into a traffic lane. Sometimes we even offer to clean their kitchens. There is never a moment when the “hour has not come”, we give what is needed. It’s what Christ does for us and what we are called to do for one another.
Favoritism is an act of disobedience against God. When we show favoritism we don’t trust God’s purpose or authority for the impossible (David and Goliath; Mary’s Conception; water into wine). We believe that the person or persons with the most resources has the best opportunity to provide what is needed. On the contrary, who has greater resources than God who has chosen shepherds, women and carpenters to the glory of his name? Radical hospitality includes not only the entertainment of all of God’s people with food (physically and spiritually) or drink, but also the idea that God can and will choose any one of us to carry his message of the gospel, fight God’s causes, or provide for one another’s needs. We must be ready to receive from those we least expect it, lest we miss the blessing because we’ve ignored the possibility.
Luke 1:37 For nothing will be impossible with God.’
James 2:1-13 My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
Hebrews 13:1-3 Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
2 Chronicles 6:32-33 ‘Likewise when foreigners, who are not of your people Israel, come from a distant land because of your great name, and your mighty hand, and your outstretched arm, when they come and pray towards this house, may you hear from heaven your dwelling-place, and do whatever the foreigners ask of you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that your name has been invoked on this house that I have built.