Tag: hospitality

biblemissiology

The Emmaus Road: mission as ‘going out’ and ‘inviting in’

Recently I was reminded how much I love the story of the disciples on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:13-35).

It is one of the many domestic stories of Luke’s Gospel, where Jesus is invited into someone’s home and sits down to eat with them. Very often, good things happen over a meal in Luke’s writings. Other meaningful encounters prompted by hospitality in Luke-Acts include Mary’s visit to Elizabeth’s home (Lk 1:40), Jesus healing Simon’s mother-in-law in her home (Lk 4:38), the healing of the paralysed man in someone’s house (Lk 5:18), quickly followed by the controversial dinner for Jesus with a dubious crowd at Levi’s house (5:29) – and the list goes on. It continues in Acts: for example, Peter’s visions concerning Gentiles while he was staying at Simon the Tanner’s house, (Acts 9:43ff), and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Gentiles whilst Peter was at Cornelius’ house, (Acts 10:24-48).

Both in the giving and receiving of hospitality divine encounters occur. God appears.

On the Emmaus Road, it is only when the disciples invite Jesus into their home, and share food with him – at the moment when he breaks bread – that they recognise him for who he is. And that changes their world. They had walked and talked with him along that road, where they had been discouraged, downcast. But in the moment of eating together, they understood who he was. Perhaps as some commentaries say, it was because they suddenly recalled Jesus breaking bread at the Last Supper.

We can’t help but remember the famous incident of Abraham welcoming and feeding the mysterious visitors, who turn out to be angels (Gen 18).

In the Gospels, of course, we don’t see Jesus hosting anyone in an earthly home, as he didn’t have one. But he did give the disciples breakfast in another resurrection appearance, on the lakeshore, in John 21:12. And the Last Supper could also be seen as an act of hospitality. It could even surely be said that our presence in this world is one vast act of hospitality on God’s part. John 1:11 says that Jesus, the Word, came into his own – literally, “into his own home” – yet his own did not recognise him.

Hospitality has long been recognised as an important element of mission, and an upcoming edition of Redcliffe’s Encounters Mission Journal is based around this theme.

The Emmaus Road incident reminds me today of two things. The first is, we do not only offer hospitality as a way of reaching out to others, of encouraging them and ministering to them – the blessing goes both ways. As givers of hospitality, we receive God in those we welcome. We might even host angels unawares. The second is, much as we are called in the Great Commission to go out into the world – we are at the same time taught in Scripture to invite people in, into our homes, into our lives, in missional acts of hospitality.

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Father Forgive

A friend of mine was killed by a terrorist. After becoming a Christian, he was abused and beaten by neighbours and family. This settled down, but just before Easter last year, he was killed. 

Terror targeting is not confined to overseas. Last week, Martin McGuinness passed away with many people remembering all the ambiguity of his life and actions. He was almost certainly complicit in violent deaths as well as later working for peace. Then later in the week, we had incidents in London with a shooting, and a motor vehicle used as a weapon.  

In the face of this, what is the role of forgiveness? Is it right to forgive people who haven’t shown any remorse?  Should we join Norman Tebbitt in wishing that such people be “parked in an unpleasant corner of hell?”

To unpack this, we need to look at what forgiveness is, and isn’t. Forgiveness is not forgetting or pretending it didn’t happen. We don’t “forgive and forget.” Forgiveness is not excusing. Forgiveness is not saying “it doesn’t matter.” Nor is forgiveness about giving permission to continue hurtful behaviours nor is it condoning the behaviour in the past or in the future.

Forgiveness, following the Bible’s understanding, means “to let go,” as when a person does not demand payment for a debt. Jesus made this comparison when he taught us to pray:

“Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is in debt to us.” (Luke 11:4)

Similarly, in the parable of the unmerciful worker, Jesus showed forgiveness was like cancelling a debt (Matthew 18:23-35).

We forgive others when we let go of resentment and let go of any claim to be compensated. Forgiveness is a decision to release. It’s letting go of the need for revenge and releasing negative thoughts of bitterness and resentment. 

Forgiveness frees a captive. In this, it’s important to note that the main captive is ourselves. Forgiveness frees us from the repetition of anger. If we harbour resentment, then what sets sail from that harbour is polluting to us who harbour it. Holding on to bitterness brews our hearts with bitterness.  Forgiving means that we are released. 

 As the family of Kurt Cochran, killed in London’s recent car attack, have said,

“[Kurt] wouldn’t bear ill feelings towards anyone and we can draw strength as a family from that… His whole life was an example of focusing on the positive. Not pretending that negative things don’t exist but not living our life in the negative – that’s what we choose to do.” — (link)

Forgiveness also releases the perpetrator.  It doesn’t mean that they aren’t challenged and held to account. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t faced up with the evil of their actions, but this is done so that they can change rather than from a desire for revenge. Forgiveness replaces bitterness with the wish that the person be faced up to, and changed for the better.  We wish good upon the person, not a place in hell.

At Easter, we remember Jesus praying “Father forgive.” That is both an example and an imperative. It’s both a model and a command in mission as much as anywhere else. In our mission situations we will see and share in some awful situations. My friend, in recounting the times of persecution, said that his heart was that he joined with Jesus in praying “Father forgive.”  I know that would be his response to those that killed him.  This is both an example and a call as we do mission.


If you want to look deeper into the way theology impacts the way we do mission with one another, why not consider an MA in Contemporary Missiology with Redcliffe? Apply deep reflection to real-life situations, and study as you work with part-time blended learning. What’s more, Colin is the course leader! Contact us today to have an initial conversation.
missiology

Hospitality: When Faiths Meet

Two Cathedrals hit the news this month for interfaith engagement. The first was Glasgow where during a service of worship there was a reading from the Qur’an (Sura Miriam) which includes a fairly docetic picture of Jesus (the baby Jesus speaks out in defence of his mother). An English translation of the passage was available in the order of service. However, the reader went past the section outlined to include verses that specifically deny the Sonship and divinity of Jesus. Whoops. Cue a lot of concerned and upset feedback (and rightly so, in my opinion).


The second was at Gloucester Cathedral where, as part of a multifaith exhibition in the cloister and chapter house, an example of the Muslim call to prayer was given. This was posted on Facebook without much context and the subsequent outcry meant that this too hit the national news. I think this was a different issue from the first. Peter Ould puts it well in this Christian Today article:

Gloucester Cathedral was engaging in a multi-faith education day. This included an example of the Islamic call to prayer, but crucially that was not undertaken during a service and there was no sense of obligation to listen to it – it happened while the participants moved around the cathedral engaging with other forms of spirituality as part of an academic engagement with those cultures. Dean Stephen Lake got it absolutely right…

 Interfaith engagement can be fraught with difficult issues and the potential for upset. In the face of this it was interesting that both Cathedrals used the issue of hospitality to defend their actions. Dean Stephen Lake of Gloucester commented that

Being a place of hospitality is important to us, especially in our local multi-cultural context. This art exhibition and its opening meeting is an important expression of the need to come together with people different from ourselves.” [italics added]

As well as interfaith events, hospitality is increasingly a part of the discussion about mission, begging the question to what degree interfaith events fall under the rubric of mission. So, we have the very real question of the place of hospitality in mission. What is hospitality? Is it unquestioning welcome? What is the role of welcome and hospitality by Christians when ideas, ideologies and theologies that are contrary to Christ and his teaching are also involved? Conversely, is a lack of welcome justified on the grounds of these differences? If mission is doing God’s work, how do we show his welcome, his call, the absurd hospitality of the Prodigal’s father?

Today’s blog has no answers but starts to pose the questions. Indeed, the genius of doing theology well is to first of all find the right questions. We need to articulate the right questions in order to explore fruitful answers. Our theme for this year’s MA summer intensive at Redcliffe College is “Hospitality and Mission” and this is something we want to start exploring in depth. Questions and comments below are very welcome. In the next few weeks we can look to beginning to find some answers.