April 26, 2020
Rev. John Steitz
- Hospitality as Communal Solidarity.
Two disciples are walking back to Emmaus a few miles outside of Jerusalem. They are joined by another traveler. They engage in dialogue as they walk.
Arriving at their home they urge the traveler to stay with them. Hospitality is essential: it is almost evening and it is unsafe for a traveler to continue, especially alone.
Hospitality is central to this Resurrection story. Gathered at a table, the traveling guest takes the bread, blesses and breaks it, and gives it to them.
Notice that it is the guest, not one of the hosts, who blesses and breaks the bread. Rather than a patron acting over or for a client, Jesus’ action as the guest, expresses communal solidarity.
Hospitality as communal solidarity becomes central to the small house churches of the early Jesus movement. Community solidarity expressed through the daily celebration of Communion binds the gathered community in love as Jesus’ disciples and makes people are feed.
Through the act of communal solidarity in this initial house church Jesus is made known in the breaking of the bread. His work complete, Jesus vanishes.
The two disciples race back to Jerusalem to find the eleven rejoicing that the Lord is risen indeed. Simon has seen the risen Jesus. The two share their story.
That the risen Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. Through the act of hospitality as communal solidarity, the risen Jesus is made known to the Jesus community, the Church.
- Hospitality as Charity: Self-Interest and Altruism.
There are multiple ways that we engage in hospitality. I will lift up three: Self-Interest, Altruism, and Social Justice. Here I am following the work of Keith Edwards on social justice allies. Edwards calls this model, “aspiring social justice ally identity development.” Quite a mouthful. Basically how people engage in justice oriented hospitality.
The network of small house churches that form the early Jesus Community use a justice oriented hospitality based on communal solidarity.
One way to approach hospitality is through Self-Interest. We extend hospitality toward our family, our friends, people who are members of the congregation, or persons who we have some connection to.
The initial motivation is self-interest. This is hospitality for people I know and care about. Ongoing motivation is personal. The individual must be present in some way.
The focus of the problem is individualized. We only see the person in need. Or the person who is targeting the person in need. There is no asking why the person is in need. There is no systemic analysis.
If I am extending hospitality to someone needing food for their family, the focus is on the person needing food.
In this approach to hospitality I never ask why a person is why a person doesn’t have food. Or if I do ask why, I offer with an individualistic answer.
This relates to the view of justice. These incidents are exceptions to an otherwise fair and just system. Actually in this approach I might not even see the system. Only stopping bad people who are attacking a vulnerable person, or helping a person who is in need.
I don’t see privilege, the status quo is just fine. My sense of power comes from helping. I protect the vulnerable. I provide aid to the needy. I am the hero of this story.
This approach to hospitality is the basis for much of the charity work congregations do. These acts of hospitality have patrons and clients. Only the host would break and then share the bread. The host is the central character in this play.
Altruism is a second approach to hospitality. This too is grounded in a charity mindset. The initial motivation here is the Other: I do this for them.
The source of ongoing motivation is dependent on the acceptance and praise from the other. This motivation can be easily derailed by critique by the other. Altruism, which offers hospitality for another can lead to burnout.
The focus of the problem or focus of attention is on the Other. The view of justice is that we need justice for them.
The system is not challenged or changed. Rather one hopes to be an exception to the system. Privilege is dealt with through denial and distancing to avoid feeling guilty.
The general orientation in the Altruism is to work for the target group, or for those being offered hospitality. Efforts to empower those being offered hospitality are based on a view that they need our help. The charity of Altruism hospitality is patron/client.
- Justice Oriented Hospitality.
Justice oriented hospitality has a communal solidarity mindset rather than charity. The initial motivation is mutuality: we do this together for us.
The source of ongoing motivation is sustainable passion. We do this in solidarity for them, for me, for us, for the future. Justice is an act of liberation for all.
Justice oriented hospitality sees the system as the problem. It seeks to deconstruct, impede, amend, and transform the system. Constructive efforts are made to create a new way, a better, life-affirming system.
Rather than being denied, privilege is illuminated. Illumination of privilege does not shame or guilt but is rather a liberating act.
Metaphorically, the privileged “blind” can now see what had been invisible to them. The oppressed who had been “mute” are given voice to share their story. And those who through their privilege had been “deaf” to oppression can now listen respectfully and hear the pain of those oppressed.
The three stages of public narrative as developed by Marshall Ganz are the Story of Self, the Story of Us, the Story of Now.
These three stages of public narrative are in our gospel story. When the traveler asks the two disciples to share what they are discussing they offer a Story of Self.
Although on one level about Jesus, his crucifixion, and the empty tomb, the theme is one of confusion and lost hope. The Story of Self they share is: we had great hope in following Jesus, but now he is gone. He was executed on a cross, and now even his body has gone missing.
It is impossible to move forward when your Story of Self is about lost hope. Jesus shares a Story of Us.
As Jesus opens the scriptures for them their hearts to burn. Hope begins to stir. Jesus connects his Story of Self to the Biblical Story of Us, starting with Moses.
Offering Jesus hospitality as an act of communal solidarity, he breaks the bread and is revealed. The two disciples then rush to the eleven with this new Story of Now: the risen Jesus has been made known in the breaking of the bread.
When we offer justice oriented hospitality we engage with, not over or for, those who are working class or poor. We seek to understand the systemic dynamics of classism to stand in solidarity with those oppressed by these systems.
Justice oriented hospitality has a radically inclusive mindset that becomes spiritually alive as our hearts, our minds, and our eyes are opened in communal solidarity with the risen Jesus
The two disciples in Emmaus offered hospitality and their hearts, minds, and eyes were opened to the risen Jesus and his Way of communal solidarity.
Communal solidarity uncovers the whys: Why in a land of plenty are there so many hungry people? Why during a pandemic have so many newly unemployed people lost their health insurance? Why are some able to stay at home while others must risk their lives working in grocery stores?
In a pandemic it is a privilege to stay at home and to work from home. This is not open to many working class and poor people. If you don’t have the rent or food for your family being an at-risk “essential worker might be your only real option.
Congregations committed to justice oriented hospitality join with the faith-rooted Poor People’s Campaign to work in solidarity with working class and poor people.
Justice oriented hospitality might begin by providing food. It moves to relationship building and organizing. To mutuality and treating those in need as partners in Christ, each a child of God. In communal solidarity the risen Jesus is made known in the breaking of the bread.