Thursday, August 11, 2011

God's hospitality

The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. (Matthew 22:2)

God is not what we would expect. Where we expect an Almighty Being to be remote and aloof, instead we see him warm and welcoming -- and specifically, warm and welcoming toward people, real ordinary people.

Jesus claimed that, in looking at him, we have a unique insight to God: "He who has seen me has seen the Father." So what do we see?

Some of the great sages of world religions -- particularly the "Eastern" religions -- have been solitary figures. When a painting or sculpture portrays them and their lives, we typically see them alone. Not so with Jesus. Sure, he had times of solitude and prayer. He observed a lengthy fast after his baptism. But for much of his ministry, we see him in company -- and enjoying the company.

Many of Jesus' conversations, passed down to us, took place when he was a guest at someone's home. There was the time when the woman broke the jar of perfume. And the time that Martha was getting all frustrated with Mary. There was the scandal he caused going to Matthew's home, and his answer about who it is that needs a doctor. There was another round of shock when he went to Zacchaeus' home. And of course there was the Last Supper in the upper room. Though we call that the Last Supper, he did meet them there again a few days later, after he had risen from the dead -- again, at dinner. Of all the times Jesus came to his disciples after the resurrection, I'm combing my memory here -- did all of them involve gathering with them at dinner or a meal? And he asked us to remember him by coming together for bread and wine, in his name.

Sometimes even the miracles took place in someone's home. He healed Simon Peter's mother-in-law after he had already been welcomed into their home.

And while Jesus was often the guest in someone else's home, he never seemed like he wanted to get back home; instead, he seemed to carry that welcome feeling of "home" with him, so that wherever he was, not only did he feel at home, but so did everyone else. Whenever I read the accounts of him in someone else's home, I get the feeling that these were the kinds of days where nobody wanted to leave at the end, where they were wishing it could last. "Home" was wherever Jesus was, and "family" could be anyone. (That's probably the point behind his telling his disciples they would have a hundred homes -- and as many sets of relatives.) Birds have nests and wild beasts have dens, and the Son of Man had no place to lay his head -- but those who traveled with him didn't seem to mind that so much, so long as he was there.

The miracles of feeding the multitudes were also acts of hospitality. And the first miracle -- the very first -- was an act of hospitality in Cana, to bring the wine to a wedding feast. And in the world to come, the gift of following Jesus is fellowship; it is the feast of salvation.
And he said to me: "Write, 'Blessed are they who are called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.'" And he said to me, "These are the true sayings of God." (Revelation 19:9).

There are some things about God that we do not consider as often as we should. God is a warm and generous God, a welcoming host.


Howard said...

Superb post. Two of my favourite moments in this list are the wedding at Cana and the breakfast on the beach. Such moments speak volumes to us about the warmth and intimacy of the kingdom. As stated at the start of the movie, Patch Adams, 'All of life is a coming home'.

Sage said...

That was excellent, I have never thought of the relationship of the Lord and all those visits in that way. Thank you for writing this. I'll re-read those passages with a different viewpoint now.

Weekend Fisher said...

Thank you for the encouragement.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Martin LaBar said...

Add my encouragement, please. I had never given thought to this. Thanks.