Could the Nearness of the Kingdom Depend on Hospitality?

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Luke 10 has become one of my favorite texts over this past year. One reason is that it is such a great text and I’ve come to love it. The other reason is because Mark Love and the master’s program at Rochester College has had me invest so much time and energy in it over the previous three semesters. Either way, it has become a text that has shaped my life over the last eighteen months.

As a part of our master’s degree, we participate in a practice called “Dwelling in the Word”. It’s a pretty simple practice on the surface. We read the text, observe a short moment of silence, and then find a “reasonably friendly stranger” in the room to share with them where the text caught our attention. After partners have shared with one another, we report to the entire group what our reasonably friendly stranger shared with us. Now, what was interesting about this practice to me, and something I found weird at first, was that we used the same text every time. So, my first week of grad school we dwelled in Luke 10 for an entire week. Surely after awhile you run out of things in a text that stand out to you…so I thought. Having done this practice for a year now at various times and in various settings, I still find Luke 10 speaks anew and continues to create meaning in my life. I suspect years from now Luke 10 will continue to come alive each time I dwell in this text. I think this has something to do with a living Word that is active and breathing.

I share all this with you to tell of an experience I had this semester with Luke 10. As a part of a project I was working on, I dwelled in Luke 10 with a group of friends. Once again, the living Word came alive in our presence and spoke. Our group was struck by the fact that the nearness of the kingdom of God in the lives of the people that the disciples were sent to visit depended upon their hospitality. When the disciples enter a town and the people welcome them, Jesus says that they are to eat with them, cure the sick, and tell them, “the kingdom of God has come near to you”. On the contrary, when they enter a town and are not welcomed, Jesus tells the disciples to go out in the streets and say, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.” When the town hosts the disciples, the kingdom of God comes near to them. When the town refuses to practice hospitality, it seems as if they don’t experience the kingdom, even though it was near. There seems to be a correlation between those who are willing to practice hospitality and their experience of the kingdom of God.

I think about this idea in light of the Christmas season. God comes into the world in the form of a baby, and he relies on the hospitality of humans. Mary and Joseph play host to the Son of God. When the Son leaves this earth, he sends the Spirit of God to dwell within those who believe. So, in a sense, our experience of the kingdom of God relies upon our willingness to host. Now I think there is more to this than simply a one time conversion moment. I’m thinking that as we go about from place to place in our daily lives, much like these disciples in Luke 10, there are opportunities to participate in the hospitality of God. When we make room and welcome others, maybe that equals glimpses of the kingdom. When we refuse to make room and go about the busyness of our lives, who knows, maybe we miss a chance to experience the nearness of the kingdom of God.

I could be on to something big here, then again I could not be. However, this is one of those areas of studying Scripture that has to be applied to find out the meaning. So I’m encouraging you as you go about your day tomorrow (or today, depending on when you read this) look for opportunities to welcome others and just see if you don’t get a glimpse of the kingdom. Maybe it is a family member living in your house, maybe it is a neighbor that drives you nuts, maybe it’s the person who empties your trash at work tomorrow, or maybe it’s a stranger walking down the street. Be attentive and make room. Who knows, maybe the kingdom of God will come near to you.

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