Text: Luke 10:38-42
A RADICAL HOSPITALITY
In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Kairos process has been with us for a few years now: that radical re-visioning of the way we do church in this diocese. Some may see its result at work in our deanery and parish in very clear ways, some may have thought of it as yet another passing fad, like the decade of evangelism (the 90s in case you missed it) which passed us by without impact. The first phase of Kairos was important, because it has brought the word radical to the lips of many in the pews who would not ordinary use the word; and when given the opportunity through prayer and reflection find themselves, perhaps surprisingly, calling for a radical approach to our challenges and problems. Kairos is not a past, passing phase, but moves into new and exciting areas which will have great impact on us here in Elson.
The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ calls us into doing some radical living, if we are truly listening. The Gospel calls us right into the middle of life—true life that brings the Kingdom of God down to all of us, so that we all can celebrate God’s goodness and concern for us all.
Yes, statements like the one above come from reading, hearing, and making sincere attempts at living out today’s Gospel passage from Luke—the hospitality of Martha and Mary. In this passage of Scripture, we are called to be open to doing some very radical work in the world in a simple gesture of hospitality.
All of us, I am sure, have been invited into the homes of friends, and have entertained friends in our own homes. Think for a moment, if you will, of going to the house of good friends who have truly made you welcome.
They say to you, “Make yourself at home.” And they truly mean it. All of you gather around a table or a meal of fellowship, and laugh and talk. You share old times, talk about what’s going on in the world today, share joys, speak of disappointments—connect. When the experience is over, we leave those friends with a great sense of richness both for them and ourselves. You and they have heard and experienced much. And because of our sincere openness we have learned much about one another, engaged with other human beings, and because of that we can face the world. We have had a community-building encounter.
Then there are those friends who are quite fussy about all that has to be done. Every “doily” on the table must be just right. And while we may appreciate the care, how much nicer things would if they were to let go of their hang ups and just be real.
Jesus visits Martha and her sister Mary. We experience right away the two different kinds of host mentioned in the above examples: Martha who is doing her “role” and Mary who is caught up in the happenings—no doubt learning something new and experiencing true joy in the process. Martha even complains to Jesus. Lord do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself?
Poor Martha—both literally and figuratively! She is poorer having missed out on the conversation by being caught up in the business of task, of preparation.
Martha is not some kind of villain or awful person in this story. She is simply all of us in the many areas of our lives. Mary has chosen the better part. She has sat, listened, and heard just as we have done with our friends. She will never be the same again.
Busy-ness does not allow for us to be open and be well. It can be the fatal element in our lives that keeps us hung up so that we may well “miss the boat,” and miss the point of the preparation experience. There are times when the essentials of hospitality and thoughtfulness are all that matter.
The Mass is the most special meal of all, each sacrifice is hosted by Our Lord Jesus Christ, made present in bread and wine on this altar, and that does require thought and preparation; but at the heart of it is the need to pause a while and encounter. In the stillness of our hearts, it is the proximity of the holy and sacred mysteries which feed and sustain our Christian lives and which enable us to look beyond this holy table and be busy about God’s work in Society at large.
This holy meal is the genuine and open home. Our preparation and hospitality should be at it most sincere, but our hearts, minds, and spirits must be so open that the trappings don’t hang us up. Hospitality must reign in such a way that the stranger will know that he or she is welcome at the table. The stranger, along with everyone else, will know what it is to hear the whole story that we tell of Jesus at the Table.
We are called to make the door of our home—the church—wide open to all. We are to invite all: those with tattered finery; those older; those younger; those female; those male; of different sexualities and positions on the Ordination of Women; those who are well physically and those who live with physical challenges.
In the process, with all at the table, we will hear much and learn much. The Kingdom will come down many times over, and we will realize that we have chosen the better part, and because of our hospitality we will never be the same again.