Last week, a handful of friends gathered at my family’s house for dinner. Take-out pizzas, compostable paper plates, and red plastic cups filled our table. Three hours later, most of the adults remained deep in conversation while the children ran circles around us.
The unknown author of Hebrews takes it a step further, encouraging the community of God not only to show love to one another but also to love the strangers in their midst. In showing hospitality to strangers, we might very well entertain the likes of angels! Ancient readers of scripture would have understood the full meaning of hospitality. The Greek word, philoxenia, comes from two words: philos, which means friend, and xenos, which means stranger. True hospitality is showing friendship not only to those we already know and love but to strangers far from home who show up on the doorstep in the middle of the night.
Christ, the most famous sojourner of all, travels from village to village as an immigrant. While fully dependent on the goodwill of others, he proclaims the good news, heals the sick, and performs miracles. I wonder if the men and women who show hospitality know they are entertaining the greatest guest of all!
When I dig into the roots of biblical hospitality, I cannot look at my dining room table the same again. It’s easy to entertain friends unawares, but might the gift be even greater and holier to the strangers in my midst?
God, give me the courage to show hospitality to the sojourner, the immigrant, the refugee, and the stranger. Amen.
Jeremiah (the “weeping prophet”) is not very popular in his time. In this passage he relates a message from God that the people have forsaken God (living water) and put their trust in things that can never satisfy (leaky cisterns). The psalmist expresses similar frustration from God. Israel will not listen to God’s voice or receive God’s provision, so God allows them to experience the unfortunate consequences of their choices. The author of Hebrews provides practical advice for living the Christian life: showing hospitality, caring for those in prison, honoring marriage, and avoiding materialism. This ethical living is an offering to God. Jesus reinforces this in his parable of the banquet. We should be generous to those who need it most, not just to those who can provide us some benefit in return.
Read Jeremiah 2:4-13. When have you missed the fountain of living water springing up before you?
Read Psalm 81:1, 10-16. How is God seeking to provide for you? Are you willing to accept God’s satisfying provision?
Read Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16. How do you or your faith community share hospitality? Do you distinguish between friends and strangers?
Read Luke 14:1, 7-14. Whom do you invite to your home and to your church? Do you invite those who cannot repay you or only those who can?
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