July 7, 2013
Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment. Do not move about from one house to another. Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, ‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.’ Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand. I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.”
The seventy-two returned rejoicing, and said, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.” Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power to ‘tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
Hospitality. We define it today as the way we treat our guests cordially and make them feel at home. It is the way we receive our guests and perhaps the way we entertain them. We go to a hotel and we see hospitality suites and we may say that we were treated hospitably. We have hospitals, which take care of and treat and cure sick people. So hospitality is still a part of our way of life and something to be treasured in our culture. In the time of Jesus, and even in the Old Testament, there is a slightly different understanding of hospitality. The meaning and concept of cordiality and comfort is still the same, but it is extended far beyond what we would feel comfortable doing today.
We certainly don’t extend our hospitality to anyone who walks up to us and asks for it. Some of us find it hard to be hospitable to street people who beg for money or for strangers who seem to demand or expect it from us. In Biblical times the populations were smaller and everyone was related to everyone else within somewhat large areas. Leaving towns and traveling to another town left travelers at great risk of robbery or beatings. There were no motels to stay at, or hotels or hostels. If you traveled you were entirely dependent on the kindness of strangers – which is why you attempted to know everyone who might be related to you or who might owe you a favor.
When Jesus said he was sending his Apostles out as lambs among wolves, he was referring to the fact that they would be itinerant travelers and would literally be at risk of robbery and beatings. That is why he did not want them to take much with them. “Carry no money, no bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no-one along the way. ”If they had nothing that could be stolen they would be better off. When they reached a village or town, however, they needed to depend on hospitality. And people were expected to give it. Early Bible stories are based on the concept of hospitality. If you remember the story of Sodom, it was really a story of how the town was inhospitable. The angels of God disguised as men were not given hospitality, except by one person, who in order to be hospitable offered up his daughters to save the visitors from the inhospitable and savage townsmen. God destroyed the cities for that crime of in hospitality.
Jesus then tells his disciples how to act when they enter a village. They are to rely on the kindness of strangers and relatives. They are to preach and heal and for this they are to be taken care of – “the laborer deserves his payment.” If the townspeople do not take care of the disciples, they are to go to a very public place in the town like the town square, and shake the dust off their feet, which means having no more to do with the people there, and leave their inhospitality to God. Jesus then tells them to remember what God did to Sodom for their crime against their fellow men. Jesus is being very consistent herein his teachings because his concept of the kingdom of heaven on earth involves treating each other with love.
So hospitality in Jesus’ sense involves treating everyone, even strangers, with respect and giving them back their due. He also expects the strangers or visitors to earn their keep as well. It is a reciprocal arrangement.
The kingdom of God is the constant and main theme of all of Jesus’ teachings. In the Gospel today he teaches his disciples that when they go into a town, they are to state their theme immediately that “the kingdom of God is at hand for you.” And the heavenly Jerusalem is the main symbol of what Jesus taught. When Jesus explains to the disciples what gifts he is giving them, “the power to tread upon serpents and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy” he is talking about all those things that are in opposition to the kingdom.
He isn’t meaning serpents and scorpions literally although they were in abundance when you were traveling in Judea, but he is metaphorically meaning the forces of evil. So Jesus has given the disciples the power to forgive sin, to heal both physically and spiritually and the power to cast out devils and be victorious over the works of the devil.
What can these readings mean for us this week? Can we consider what it means to be hospitable in Jesus’ terms. How can we bring peace to others? How can we practice the love that Jesus says we ought to show to each other? Can we set our sights on the heavenly Jerusalem by beginning the kingdom of heaven on earth through our relationships with others? All of these questions are things which we can ponder this week as we try to live the life of Jesus and follow his way in our own lives.
St. Valentine Faith Community
"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)