March 2020

Dear Friends,

Dorothy Bass and Craig Dykstra, among others, have made it their mission to reclaim ancient practices of faith and bring them back to the center of Christian life. For them (and despite my enjoyment of systematic theology I tend to agree with them) what we do as followers of Jesus is at least as important as what we understand about Jesus. Our belief in Jesus Christ should shape our lives.[1]

Practice has two common meanings: preparing, as in practicing for a game; and carrying out a certain role, usually professional, as in practicing law. Both are in play here, but primarily the second meaning. Christian practices are the things Christians regularly do, in order to fulfill their role as Christians. Because we do them regularly, we get better at them, but the main thing is, these practices are the way we live our faith.

Hospitality is one of the important Christian practices. Its roots go all the way back to Genesis 8. Abraham's welcome of three travelers sets the stage for their promise that Sarah, in her old age, would bear a child. Would that have happened if he had sent them on their way hungry? The hospitality of Pharaoh, mediated by Joseph, saved the people of Israel during a famine. While in exile, they lived among strangers is strange lands. Because of this history, the law of Moses specifically requires that sojourners among Israel be treated like one of their own and included in Sabbath rest.

As the apostles traveled from city to city proclaiming the good news, they stayed in people's homes, often those of well to do widows. Without their hospitality it would have been much harder. Monastic communities have retained this emphasis on hospitality since their inception. According to one story,

One night a college student traveling through Spain got off the train in a village that was already asleep. A little frightened, he approached the only lighted place. It turned out to be a monastery, and the monks received him gladly. After his departure, he discovered that they had quietly slipped some coins into his pocket as he slept.

Hospitality is an important practice at every level. In our families, someone needs to organize those gatherings where we reconnect and maintain our connections. In our church we welcome everyone to communion, coffee hour, and special events like the Shrove Tuesday supper. In our community church members have worked on the refitting the rooms at Union Street House emergency housing, at Laundry Love, and on the weekend student food program. At the national level, our traditional (though often imperfect) hospitality for immigrants is responsible for most of us being here.

Let us be always on the lookout for ways to practice our faith through Hospitality.

[1]Bass, Dorothy C, Practicing our Faith, 1997, Jossey-Bass Inc.