Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

Jeff Street New Year 1
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Hospitality as Resistance, Part I

So Happy Together
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

In ancient times, and in many cultures today, everyone, everyone, whether rich or poor, depended upon the hospitality of strangers when away from home. They didn’t have Taco Bell or Cracker Barrel or Ramada Inn.

And so we see Abram and Sarai providing curds and milk and a calf for three strangers who appear from nowhere. We see Lot, as he welcomes strangers into his own home, on the one hand, and the inhospitality of the people of the town, on the other, as they seek to do violence to the strangers. This is one of the stories, by the way, that most clearly shows the depth of Israel’s commitment toward hospitality and the intensity of feeling of the Hebrew people, who believed that God destroyed the whole city of Sodom because of their inhospitality toward strangers.

Hospitality was seen as a sacred duty in many eastern cultures, and but for the people of Israel, it was also part of their identity: “You shall not oppress a stranger; you know the heart of a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Ex. 23:9). Because they’d been mistreated in a foreign land, they were to live differently, to provide hospitality to the alien. And we saw some of how that actually played out as we studied the Book of Ruth.

So when we look at the stories of Jesus and the early church, we see that hospitality wasn’t a new thing. It was an extension of the best of Israel’s tradition. However, in Jesus’ day and culture, much of that tradition had been lost. So, for example, when Levi the tax collector invites Jesus and a whole slew of others into his home, the Pharisees are incensed. They don’t remember God’s reminder in Exodus that they should know the heart of a stranger, but rather ask, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus was about some serious business here. He was, by his actions, by his hospitality habits, resisting cultural and religious expectations and traditions. The Pharisees, as you may remember, were concerned with purity above all else. Do you remember when I preached about the Book of Ruth a few weeks ago, and talked about how after the exile, some of the Jews were worried about losing their identity?

One of their solutions to this problem was to “put away” their foreign wives and children. Well, the Pharisees were worried about the same thing. They were living in an occupied nation, and were concerned about being assimilated into Roman culture. So what they focused on more than anything else was purity, being separate. What Jesus focused on was not purity, but compassion, and we see that in this morning’s scripture reading. Jesus, in his actions, is painting a picture of what Israel is supposed to look like, with a heart for the outcast and stranger.
But wait! There's more...

Hospitality as Resistance, Part II

Chiayim in the Leaf Pile
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

Ched Myers says that one of the reasons that Jesus was executed was because Jesus’ solidarity with marginalized communities (including women) and radical inclusion of them threatened the social architecture of the prevailing order. And some scholars believe that Jesus’ eating habits, his hospitality habits were the primary cause of his being handed over to the Romans for execution.

There is just something so very powerful about sharing a meal with, about extending hospitality to someone who is not like us, about creating space for the stranger. Walls fall down. Preconceived ideas are overturned. Blessings are bestowed, and not just from the host, but from the guest as well. Hospitality is resistance.

Maybe you can remember a meal or an act of hospitality that changed your life, and that in so doing is changing the fabric of this society. The Pharisees were correct in their concerns. Jesus was on a mission, and his mealtimes, more than anything else, illustrated what he was working to bring into being.

Peter Maurin, one of the founders, along with Dorothy Day, of the Catholic Worker Movement 70 years ago, said, “We need Houses of Hospitality to show what idealism looks like when it is practiced” (Pohl, Making Room).

People all over Louisville will be entertaining this Christmas. There will be breakfasts and dinners and parties and banquets galore, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, many or most of them will serve to further the status quo. People will invite people who they know, or who they want to know, people who are much like them, people who will someday return the favor, who will someday help to further their own place of privilege.

I am wondering what our Christmas plans look like so far. I’m wondering if we are planning any hospitality as resistance this year. Something a little out of our comfort zone, something with someone who cannot reciprocate, something that threatens our very carefully ordered way of life, that breaks boundaries that we’ve been brought up to keep. Hospitality as resistance.

So perhaps the questions that we can ask ourselves today, on this first Sunday of Advent, and this week, is this:

What are our habits of hospitality?

How are we going to create space for the stranger? How are we going to create space for the stranger here in our church? Now, Diane creates space five mornings a week from 7:00 to 10:00, etc. But what I mean is, not how do we do it corporately, but rather how do you do it? How do you create space for the stranger here at church?

And how are we going to create space for the stranger in our own homes this Advent season? When Abram and Sarai welcomed the three strangers, their household was less private. There was a whole community involved in their provision of hospitality. It was safer to bring in a stranger than it is today when most of our homes are so very private. So as we think about creating space for the stranger in our own homes, it takes some work, some wrestling, some figuring out…

There is picture of God’s realm, of God’s welcome table, that only you can create through your habits of hospitality. What will it look like?
By Pastor Cindy, our dangerously hospitable preacher

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Jeff Street Christmas Musical

Thea, Lorelei and Cyrus
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.
We had our annual Christmas Pageant tonight and a great time was had by all. The musical was Papa Panov, based upon a story written by Tolstoy!

How many churches have Tolstoy musicals put on by their children for Christmas, I wonder...?

Jesse and Peggy

Jesse and Peggy
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.
Jesse was one of our narrators and Miss Peggy is our wonderful Children's Minister and Director of the musical.

Papa Panov cast

Papa Panov
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.