Friday, June 21, 2013

Materiality as god and the question of hospitality, a view from a stranger in the midst


But no stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open to the traveler
                                                                                                             -       Job 31:32

I had been working at a job where I would visit literally hundreds of people a day.  Most of these people were rich and well to do, living in mansions and small estates.  They had big cars and houses, seemingly living the successful life as defined by U.S. American culture and society.   They appeared to have everything, the blessings of materiality, good families, good credit and plenty of money in the bank.  Yet my experience of this community, particularly as a stranger, is one of fear, of loathing and a fear of loss to the point of refusing conversation, both women and men, young and old hiding behind multiple doors, and gates.   My impression after experiencing the life of the well to do and wealthy is that hospitality becomes an opportunity of risk as their god; materiality, dictates their engagement of the stranger.  Now to be clear times are hard, suspicious and cynical as forms of hospitality become properties of the familiar, and this appears logical and sensible, yet the unfortunate realities of oppression even of the so called rich should not dissuade from a sense of Godliness as it relates to an interaction with the stranger.  So I am compelled to ask, what of hospitality, more importantly what of the stranger? 

Job 31:32 reads, “but no stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open.”  The implications of this text are significant as images of God’s people who happen to be homeless, come to mind, and the unfortunate situations that occur because of homelessness.  Further, the text intimates that hospitality is the responsibility of the person; i.e. you and me, and not some government system or social safety net.  Each person is responsible for the hospitality of the community.  It is not some responsibility to vote away for party and country no matter your faith or political leaning.  Hospitality presents the question “is God the stranger at the door?   For me this becomes the underlying reason for the importance of hospitality, that God is at the door seeking to pour divine grace and mercy on your behalf and this a call not to harden your heart.
             This is a hard thing as materiality rules our day as no one wants to be in need.  Yes, my beloved our need to protect what we have worked so hard for has become our god at the expense of our humanity and this of our heart.  In that our hearts have become hard and callous and this no different than the Pharaohs of Egypt.