Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hospitality and Justice

This week's scriptures are Deuteronomy 24:10-22 and James 2: 1-13.

We're spending a few weeks talking about various aspects of hospitality as a Christian discipline or practice. This week's scriptures are about hospitality as an element of justice for the powerless (in Deuteronomy it is the alien and the poor, in James the focus is on the poor).

The Deuteronomy passage is very blunt. It speaks to the impact of behavior on people's ability to eat and to stay warm. Verses 19-22 in particular talk about not taking everything that you can from your field or vineyard or olive trees....about leaving something for the poor, the widow, the alien to gather so that they can survive.

And the reasoning behind this is striking: "Keep in mind that you were slaves in Egypt; that is why I command you to do this." (vs.22) The people of Israel are commanded to look after those who are different, who are poverty stricken, who are voiceless because they were once slaves who were voiceless and poor. The call to a hospitality is rooted in what God had done for them when they were among the aliens.

It is this 'Hospitality as Justice' that can help rescue our idea of hospitality from being a 'softy and fuzzy' kind of niceness. True hospitality is gentle...but it is also strong. It understands the need of the stranger because it has experienced being the stranger.

God's hospitality, Jesus' hospitality will open us up to involvement in issues of justice and care in ways we cannot even imagine. One way to begin letting it do this is to take either one of these scriptures and ask ourselves as we look at Deuteronomy, "what is our time's equivilent of 'holding back the wages of a man who is poor' or 'returning his cloak to him at sunset'?" What ways do we face the issue of the kind of impartiality that James talks about in that passage?

We'll be having a pancake brunch and Bible study on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Jeremy has kindly offered to help me flip pancakes. And we'll be looking at this theme of hospitality more closely. I hope you can join us; and I hope to see you on Sunday.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Uploaded 9-15-08.