Demonstrating hospitality to others and to ourselves, a reflection from Bishop Akiyama

Demonstrating hospitality to others and to ourselves, a reflection from Bishop Akiyama

One of the hardest things we are called to do as Christians is to extend hospitality as Jesus taught. Earlier this week, we participated in one of the great rights and privileges of our democracy: voting. In an atmosphere of deep concern over so many issues, voting is an act that says, “I care. I am participating. I am making my voice heard.” I have wondered about the deep concerns and anxieties on the hearts of all people and not only those who agree with us. I wonder, too, how we, because of our faith, can become part of offering hospitality to not only those we call friend but also those who seem strange to us.

Jesus taught, in word and deed, what it looks like to love our neighbor, and he was treated with great suspicion and even hostility because his practices were challenging the normative understandings of hospitality. He demonstrates hospitality as an imitation of God’s abundant love. 

In his book, Reaching Out, Henri Nouwen describes what it means to extend hospitality in this way:
“Hospitality… means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring [others] over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment. It is not educated intimidation with good books, good stories, and good works, but the liberation of fearful hearts so that words can find roots and bear ample fruit….The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness,  not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free; free to sing their own songs, speak their own languages, dance their own dances; free also to leave and follow their own vocations. Hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt the lifestyle of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his own.”

Christian hospitality is a wonderful example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. It is more than each of us being friendly and welcoming. It is knowing we are created to love one another; and knowing we can live into this because God – the Alpha and the Omega – loved us first. 

Christian hospitality draws people in because it says, “Please come home.” There is a belonging in this kind of hospitality that soothes the deep longing we have to love and be loved. Hospitality, as Jesus lived it and preached it, is difficult. It challenges our sense of control, our sense of being “right”, our categories of “us” and “them.” This form of hospitality is not simply offering comfort; it is creating space in which the stranger becomes a guest, and the guest becomes a friend.

This kind of hospitality will not be authentic, nor will it last, if we do not also practice hospitality to ourselves – within ourselves. What I mean by this is our call into Christian hospitality – welcoming the stranger – requires that we extend this form of love as the result of prayer, reflection, and the development of a deeper and deeper relationship with God. Such practice begins the personal transformation where we welcome the stranger within in order to heal, and then truly live in the knowledge of the love of the Lord. Otherwise, we will have expectations about the outcomes of our hospitality; we will allow our fears and anxieties to distort what we intend as loving and belonging.
Christian hospitality is less about convincing, persuading, or agreeing, and more about creating a place that invokes a sigh of relief, the kind of sigh we breathe out when we come home from a day in the wilderness. Imagine a hospitality that draws in our neighbors because it feels like coming home.

PLEASE COME HOME   

by Jane Hooper

Please come home. Please come home.
Find the place where your feet know where to walk
And follow your own trail home.

Please come home. Please come home into your own body,
Your own vessel, your own earth.
Please come home into each and every cell,
And fully into the space that surrounds you.

Please come home. Please come home to trusting yourself,
And your instincts and your ways and your knowing,
And even the particular quirks of your personality.

Please come home.  Please come home and once you are firmly there,
Please stay home awhile and come to a deep rest within.
Please treasure your home. Please love and embrace your home.
Please get a deep, deep sense of what it’s like to be truly home.

Please come home. Please come home.
And when you’re really, really ready,
And there’s a detectable urge on the out-breath, then please come out.

Please come home and please come forward.
Please express how you are to us, and please trust us
To see you and hear you and touch you
And recognize you as best we can.

Please come home. Please come home and let us know
All the nooks and crannies that are calling to be seen.
Please come home, and let us know the More
that is there that wants to come out.

Please come home. Please come home
For you belong here now.  You belong among us.
Please inhabit your place fully so we can learn from you,
From your voice and your ways and your presence.

Please come home. Please come home.
And when you feel yourself home, please welcome us too,
For we too forget that we belong and are welcome,
And that we called to express fully who we are.

Please come home. Please come home.
You and you and you and me.

Please come home. Please come home.
Thank you, Earth, for welcoming us.
And thank you touch of eyes and ears and skin,
Touch of love for welcoming us.

May we wake up and remember who we truly are.

Please come home.
Please come home.
Please come home.

In these uncertain times, I invite us to come home to ourselves, to one another, and to the heart of God, where there is no stranger – only the Beloved.  

In Christ,