Hospitality is a major theme throughout the Bible. The unidentified author of this letter emphasizes the central role hospitality played in the early Christian community, noting that welcoming strangers may mean hosting angels without knowing it.
In the early church, hospitality meant more than just being welcoming or friendly. For example, visiting prisoners was an extension of hospitality, taken to those who could not come out to receive it. In Roman-occupied communities, people often ended up in prison for such offenses as not showing adequate respect for Roman gods or being poor. People were persecuted and tortured for expressing their faith. The support of the Christian community was an act of solidarity and a form of hospitality to those suffering for their faith.
Modern economic systems still imprison people for the “crime” of being poor. Those who have resources often buy their way out of jail, if they don’t use the legal system to avoid it in the first place. But those lacking financial resources stay behind bars, cut off not only from their family but also from any means of making the money to pay their bail. Members of the Christian community are often the advocates coming to protest the inequity of this system.
People are also still persecuted for their religious beliefs in many parts of the world. In my diverse city of Houston, Christian congregations frequently go to great lengths to show solidarity with Muslim and Jewish neighbors as a way of demonstrating hospitality across interfaith lines.
Lord who invites us to fellowship, strengthen our resolve to extend your hospitality to others. Amen.
Jeremiah had the unenviable task of speaking truth to power. While others were proclaiming how good things were, he was called and compelled to insist things were not all that great. The people kept ignoring Yahweh’s persistent invitations to abandon their pseudo-gods and focus on Yahweh. The theme of God’s hospitality continues in our texts from Hebrews as the author reminds readers that when we extend a genuine welcome to strangers, we may actually be hosting the Lord God. Luke picks up the hospitality thread by proposing a radical new way of deciding whom to include. He extends God’s compassion for all humanity by suggesting that we start our invitation lists with those who would not typically be included. God’s central message to humans through the centuries, through the scriptures, and most certainly through Christ, is consistent: You, personally, are invited to be God’s precious guest on the journey through life.
Read Jeremiah 2:4-9. When have you needed to tell authority figures that something was wrong? Where did you find your courage to deliver the message?
Read Psalm 81. What treasured traditions do you have in your family or with your friends?
Read Hebrews 13:15-16. Where do you observe people going out of their way to show compassion to others? Where have you received unsolicited kindness?
Read Luke 14:12-14. When have you extended hospitality to someone who couldn’t pay you back?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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