This second week of Advent and Making Room, we are exploring the history of hospitality. What was it in the ancient world, when/how did it change, and what was lost in the transitions?
In the second chapter of the full book, Pohl walks us through the spiritual and moral dimensions of hospitality in Christian history. She reminds us throughout the chapter to remember that Christian hospitality is counter-cultural because it transgresses lines of social and economic class. Rather than being host to friends, family, or people you aspire to befriend, the Christian host opens her doors to those who can never repay the favor. It is non-transactional. We see this play out in the life and ministry of Jesus who was always inviting to the table those who did not belong. Whether he was at the party as guest or host, Jesus made sure that those on the margins of society were invited guests to the proverbial (and literal) banquet tables of his time.
Interestingly Pohl links this subversive behavior of Jesus to the incarnation of Christ as servant. God makes God's own self human as a servant, transcending all boundaries that existed between the divine and human, and in so doing, God becomes flesh as an outsider, a refugee, a child of questionable birth, a stranger. Because God has come into the world in such a way, and because Jesus modeled for us how to host the stranger, the outsider, the one who did not belong... it is our moral obligation and our Christian response to go and do likewise.
In the ancient world, this bold hospitality was practiced widely among Christians. The faith depended upon it. The lines between church and home were nothing like they are today and the proliferation of the Gospel often happened around hosts' tables. As people gathered to eat, relationships were forged, and the Good News of God's work of inclusion and welcome spread. But overtime, the church began to take on its own life outside of private homes. In addition, the commercialization of hotels, hospitals, etc. meant that in-home hospitality of strangers and travelers became less and less common. Household structures also changed and became smaller as each generation sought independence. With more adults are working, fewer generations under one roof, and more children are in school, most homes went from being bustling centers of family life, to structures that remain empty most of the time. These shifts are only a few of those outlined by Pohl in chapters 2 and 3!
With all this change, it's no wonder the art of Christian hospitality has been lost along the way. So how might we begin to recover it?
Listen in as we work our way through these two jam-packed chapters and begin to think (out loud) about the possibility of recovering the lost art of Christian hospitality.