Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Lost Art of Hospitality

1 Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground. 2 And he said, “Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.”And they said, “No, but we will spend the night in the open square.” 3 But he insisted strongly; so they turned in to him and entered his house. Then he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. (Genesis 19:1-3)

Hospitality is a thermometer of a culture's spiritual health. When a family, community or nation is spiritually healthy, open-hearted and generous hospitality is as free and spontaneous as seasonal rains. In this passage, Lot would not allow the strangers to deny him the privilege of personal provision of hospitality; he would not allow it to be the domain of the open public.

Our culture has fallen into spiritual decline, and a prime indicator is the commercialisation of hospitality. The poor, the marginalised and the weak cannot afford hospitality. How many families in our communities, open their homes to travellers and visitors? We have lost faith, we do not trust, we cannot possibly open our homes to such people because we do not know what they will bring.

The Warlpiri people have been a hospitable people. When they lived in the desert, they had generous rules governing hospitality, and resources essential to life were generously shared with visitors and travellers. When the Warlpiri moved into communities, and then were forcefully distributed to disparate locations up to 1000 kms from each other, they still maintained their laws of hospitality.

These days, however, with the imposition of "Income Management" and other government imposed initiatives, Warlpiri are finding it progressively more and more difficult to maintain their culture of hospitality; and soon it may be tossed to the public domain.

Hospitality extends to providing guests a place to sleep, an opportunity to bathe, food to eat, and participation in family routines (such as family devotions, singing, catching up on the events of the day, and such like).

Over the years, we have had the privilege of having many people partake of the hospitality of our home. We have entertained, Taiwanese, Malaysians, Maldivians, Sudanese, Indonesians, Fijians, New Guineans, People from Hong Kong and mainland China, Philippinos, Warlpiri, Canadians, Americans, and others. These people have slept in our beds, eaten our food, bathed in our facilities, joined in our family devotions, listened to the exposition of the Gospel, sung songs of praise to the Living God, laughed with us, cried with us, played with us and generally shared with us life in all its imperfections. Some of these people were Christians, many were not, but all of them have had an opportunity to hear of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hospitality costs; it costs money, it costs time, it costs inconvenience, it intrudes and can be a humbug. However, if I had my life over again, I would be much more hospitable and take on many more opportunities to show hospitality.

Lord, in my closing years, will you please help me to move against the spirit of my age. Help me to increase in my expressions of hospitality; help me to share much more fully and freely; help me to live a healthy, Christian life that touches many through the art of hospitality.

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