October 5, 2009
I have just returned from our parish weekend at Kanuga where the Very Rev’d Mark Bourlakas led us in thinking about ‘Dining in the Kingdom of God’. Drawing primarily from Luke with help from the movie ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ (which he said was produced as comedy but was really more like documentary for his family) he provided some valuable and important insights. He was assisted by his wife, Martha, who addressed some specific challenges of making space at the table for refugees and people with disabilities among others. They were both clear that the Kingdom Table is not for friends only, but for those by whom we are challenged. Mark drew his presentation together by thinking about the meal on the road to Emmaus and made the point that Jesus, the stranger, disappears once he is seen, recognized and known.
I was left with questions about whether and how we can or should draw limits in our lives. Is there ever a time when we should not attempt to offer hospitality? It seems that we cannot give our selves away in love if we are not first a ‘self’. There are clearly some times when I am open to the stranger and the person that I find challenging and others when I am not. It seems to me that in god’s economy there is room for everyone at the table, but that I (and you) are given particular cares and concerns or ‘burdens laid on our hearts’ and it is to those that we must be faithful trusting that God will provide others to care for those for whom we simply cannot make room.
Another set of questions revolve around power. It seems that there can be times when the offer of hospitality is an exercise of power. Jesus ate and drank with tax collectors and sinners from a position of weakness and was accused of aband0oning his friends at some level, or perhaps better put, accused of endorsing the actions of those with whom he ate and drank. Are there times when we should not accept offers of hospitality?
I heard from Della Wells, who with Jere is representing us on the Compass Rose Society visit to Malawi. They have been honored with a generous meal while surrounded by starving children and being told that they will cause a riot if they try and give food to any of the children who must watch them eat. The hospitality of their hosts is genuine, but it seems that the food was hard to swallow in such circumstance.
As we move toward organizing and shaping our ministry around formation in the faith and engaging the other we will have to confront questions such as these head on, even recognizing that there are no simple answers and no ‘law’ that will allow us to justify ourselves.