Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hospitality as feeding God


"The challenge of hospitality as a surrender of oneself is well illustrated in the example of God’s hospitality at the exodus. In the biblical texts, hospitality to strangers is portrayed from the very beginning as a theological relationship mirroring the human companionship with God: hospitality to others is hospitality to God. The bread shared with the stranger is a service directed ultimately to God. John Chrysostom placed particular emphasis on this aspect:

This is hospitality, this is truly to do it for God’s sake. But if you give orders with pride, though you bid him take the first place, it is not hospitality, it is not done for God’s sake. The stranger requires much attendance, much encouragement, and with all this it is difficult for him not to feel abashed; for so delicate is his position, that whilst he receives the favor, he is ashamed. That shame we ought to remove by the most attentive service, and to show by words and actions, that we do not think we are conferring a favor, but receiving one, that we are obliging less than we are obliged.

Chrysostom stressed the idea that the motivation for hospitality among God’s people is born not only out of an identification of oneself with the stranger but also out of an identification of the stranger with God. Hospitality is the challenge to see in the stranger also the presence of God. In other words, the Israelites are asked to share their bread with strangers not because they are a people of bread but because they are the people of God. The freedom of extending one’s companionship to the marginalized and outcasts of society is a gift from God that establishes a testing ground for hospitality in commemoration and imitation of God’s companionship with the world. Hospitality thus becomes a means of both service to the world and worship of God, as we are reminded in this third-century homily:

For if you really wish to worship the image of God, you would do good to humans, and so worship the true image of God in them … If therefore you wish truly to honor the image of God, we declare to you what is true; that you should do good to and pay honor and reverence to everyone, who is made in the image of God. You should minister food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, hospitality to the stranger, and necessary things to the prisoner. That is what will be regarded as truly bestowed upon God.

For the people of God, the primary challenge of hospitality is not only to abide by the rules of social and economic equality and solidarity but also to acknowledge God as the recipient of their moral actions. The bread shared with the stranger is companionship with God extended to the world as a reflection of God’s justice and righteousness."

(end Jasons bit)

So christian sacrifice is no more 'spiritual' than Jewish sacrifice. The bread and meat and offerings we present to God are just as tangible. They are simply presented at a different temple, his people. To fail to care for his people is equivalent to failing to sacrifice correctly. Is this why ananais and saphirra are struck down in Acts? Is this the great sin of 1 corinthians, leaving no food at the feast for the poor? Is this how we can say that the faithful fed and visited Christ inprison? Why looking after widows and orphans is considered true religion?

If this is the case, what does the Calvinist 'we can never be sure who the elect are'do to our 'true sacrifice'? Does it limit it, we never recognize God in anyone? Or does it enhance it; there is always a possibility that God is in someone.

And why are Muslims better at this kind of hospitality?

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