Sunday, April 26, 2020 Hospitality: Stay with Us
Read Luke 24:13-35
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2
What does hospitality have to do with us stuck in our homes when we cannot invite anyone to stay with us?
Today’s Gospel story may not often be viewed through the frame of hospitality, but if the two companions returning to Emmaus had not been hospitable toward a person they did not recognize, the story would never have been written.
They were walking home, perhaps a 7 mile trip from Jerusalem, after witnessing the most perplexing events of their lives. Can you imagine the story they were sharing with each other? Remembering pieces of the last few days, trying not to forget details as they recalled what they had seen and what they had heard. There probably were some long silences as each pondered things. So much was swirling in their heads that made no sense.
Then a stranger invades their space and asks a rather invasive question: “What are you discussing as you walk along?” Who is this nosy person who just barged into our conversation? Cleopas asked him, giving another straightforward question in retort, who are you who doesn’t know what’s going on? What would you have done in this situation? Brushed the person off, told him to get on his way, this is a private conversation? Given each other knowing looks and rolled your eyes, let’s walk faster… Those are options. But before they could do any of those, Jesus ripostes with another question, “What things?” Hmm, this man wasn’t going away.
Perhaps the situation was a little different. “They stood still looking sad.” Perhaps one of them had been crying and the other looked deeply distressed, both reflecting their experience of the worst days of their lives. Perhaps this stranger was moved by compassion to come beside them and gently ask a question that opened them up. I’ve read that we need to tell our stories of pain until they are healed. The more one is able to talk about a trauma and the story is heard and listened to, the better that person will be able to heal from it.
With a simple, “What things?” the stranger invited them to tell their story. They didn’t simply say, “well, it’s a long story,” and drop it, they told this unknown person the whole story of their experience with Jesus including his death and the events at the tomb. There was something hospitable in the way this man had appeared to them, and they felt safe in opening up to him.
He listened to their story, and didn’t simply reply, you poor dears, but instead he connected all the dots of stories in the scriptures to show how what they had witnessed had fulfilled the promise of the Messiah.
It was a long walk and a long conversation, lasting until they reached the village. Now what? ‘Well, it was so nice to meet you, blessings on the rest of your journey?’ No, hospitality again was shown, this time by the companions. “Stay with us.” “They urged him strongly.” This wasn’t a half-hearted, polite-thing-to-do invitation. Stay with us, have a meal and a place to sleep. In spite of the fact that they had been away from home for several days in Jerusalem and had just walked a long way home, their hearts were so open to this man, they sincerely wanted him to stay.
Stay he did, although briefly and only long enough to become the host and bless and break bread with them, thereby revealing who he was. Then he vanished from their sight.
He vanished from their sight, but not from their hearts. Suddenly they were aware of how strangely warm their hearts had felt when he was talking with them. And that same hour, they headed back to Jerusalem, found the disciples, and did more telling of an amazing story.
Perhaps we cannot open our homes to strangers right now, but we can be hospitable to the One who comes beside us and enters our story and walks with us. We can invite him into our stories, and open our lives to him, and urge him to stay.
Sometimes conversations with Jesus happen over a long journey. There might be pauses when we let the companionship be enough. Perhaps you will notice something along the way that brings revelation or peace to a story you shared, or you will hear a song or read something or even hear words in your heart that heal. Perhaps when we are together again and share a meal, Christ will be revealed as we break bread, and your heart will be warmed, maybe even burn within you.
Is there a story you would like Jesus to hear now, perhaps one that needs telling to bring healing? It may be one the he has heard before, but he is hospitable and will listen to you again and again. Be sure to be hospitable toward him also and listen. And when you get close to home, invite him to stay with you, no, urge him to stay with you.
May you open your heart-home to the one who walks with you,
may your heart be strangely warmed,
may your eyes be opened to recognize him,
and may you return to share your story, and offer your thanks and praise.
In the name of our loving companion Jesus
who walks with each one of us as we travel this road of life. Amen.
~ Evie Doyon, April 2020