This being human is a guesthouse – every morning a new arrival, a joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. – Rumi
You shall love (the stranger) as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt – Leviticus 19:34
After a long night of hospitality, my father would always say to my mother, Honey, we need to go to bed so these people can leave!” – Anon
New realities are brought into being over time by a quality of relationship between unlikely combinations of people. When in doubt, practice hospitality – Krista Tippet
A friend once told me a story about the difference between hospitality in Ireland and that in the US:
In Ireland, you go to someone’s house, and she asks you if you want a cup of tea.
You say, “No, thank you, I’m really just fine.”
She asks if you’re sure.
You say, “Of course I’m sure, really, I don’t need a thing.” (Except they pronounce it “ting” . . . “I don’t need a ting.”)
“Well,” she says then, “I was going to get myself some anyway, so it would be no trouble.”
“Ah,” you say, “well, if you were going to get yourself some anyway, I wouldn’t mind a spot of tea, at that, so long as it’s no trouble and I can give you a hand in the kitchen.”
Then you go through the whole thing all over again until you both end up in the kitchen drinking tea and chatting.
In America, if someone asks you if you want a cup of tea, and you say, “No, thank you,” you don’t get any tea!”
Well, that may not be entirely accurate. But we laugh anyway, because there’s some truth to the awkwardness and bluntness we sometimes feel in situations that call for hospitality — the typical situations, anyway — visiting a friend, hosting a party, being a guest, eating at a restaurant.
Of course, these days, these interesting times in which we find ourselves, typical encounters often involve an element of anxiety (being sure to socially distance yourself from others at the table or in line), awkwardness (trying to speak through, or understand someone else’s speech through, a face mask), or out-and-out anger (standing near someone who refuses to wear a mask, or worse, purposefully coughs on you!). Social hospitality may now seem like a thing of the past — and the world more like a Jerry Springer stage where anything but hospitality can happen!
There’s a great story in the New Testament, in the Gospel of Luke, about a wealthy tax collector named Zacchaeus (and yes, he’s “the wee little man” in that children’s Sunday School song).
Jesus is walking through town of Jericho, surrounded by a crowd, when he sees that Zacchaeus has climbed a tree in order to catch a glimpse of him. Jesus looks up and says “Zacchaeus, come on down. I’m coming to eat at your house tonight!”
It’s a strange story for a couple of reasons: why is Jesus eating with a chief tax collector, someone who is colluding with the enemy and collecting taxes for the Roman Empire? And, the crowd seems to think Zacchaeus is a sinner and Jesus shouldn’t be eating with him.
But the text suggests otherwise, that Zacchaeus is already paying half of his income for the needs of the poor and repaying those who’ve been cheated out of their income. His meal with Jesus didn’t transform him into being a more generous person.
What the story may really be about, quite simply, is that Jesus sees Zacchaeus. Where everyone else sees a “sinner,” an “outcast,” someone hidden and lost in the crowd (of small stature), love sees something else.
These are interesting times, where a lot of people seem to be feeling unheard, unseen, even compelled to do the unthinkable. There’s a lot of anger out there.
And just when you think 2020 can’t get any more unbelievable, something else gets thrown into our “Pandemic Soup” (murder hornets, for example). These interesting times are causing a lot of anxiety and continued divisiveness and fear mongering.
Times like these call for extreme measures — radical acts of spiritual resistance.
So, I’m proposing six virtues to bring more hope and real interest to these times that seem otherwise. Last Sunday, we looked at the importance of our words.
How is community possible in times like these? How might we practice virtues, spiritual disciplines, that bring more bridge-building than bridge-burning to our moments and encounters with others ? Here’s a clue: the opposite of anger isn’t happiness or joy or even peace.The opposite of anger is hospitality.
This Sunday, it’s time for some radical hospitality.
Join me, Rev. Linda McDermott, and the revolution band this Sunday as we look at the virtue of radical hospitality.
Until then, be well,
Rev. Tom McDermott
Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven
Crafting Difficult Conversations
Weekly on Mondays | 7:00 pm – 7:45 pm
Having trouble knowing how to talk about issues of race, sexuality, or climate change? Do you find it difficult to know where to start with the issues that are front and center for us all right now? Maybe you’re afraid to say anything for fear of looking foolish, or offensive, or even racist?
You want to be engaged with others, but what’s the best approach for joining – or starting – these conversations? (It’s difficult) but these conversations must be crafted with compassion and thoughtful intent.
Join Darryl Parker, member of FUMCFW, Data Scientist, and mindfulness expert, and our own Rev. Tom McDermott as they facilitate conversations around the difficult themes of our day and offer techniques and practices for creating a safe space for healthy conversation.
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