Hospitality - Reflection on a recent visit to Indonesia
Last month, a group of nine Disciples seminarians and recently ordained clergy participated in an immersion experience with Week of Compassion partners in Indonesia. Rev. Miriam Gentle of the Capital Region offered this reflection as part of a recent sermon.
In the Christian tradition, Jesus is our example for what welcoming the stranger means.Jesus entered humanity and became human. In the Incarnation, Jesus humbled himself, becoming vulnerable.
Even as he humbled himself, he invited others into a relational experience; strangers, Samaritans, women, tax collectors. He welcomed little children, who had no status in society, and placed them on his lap and proclaimed that to them belonged the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16)
Jesus even broke bread with the person who would eventually betray him.
God’s welcome was extended to all.
As scripture shows us, hospitality is about giving and receiving.
It’s about relationships and mutuality.
Mutuality means that we need to welcome others, but we also need to be humble and vulnerable enough to allow others to welcome us.
I experienced a bit of this mutuality in my recent visit to Indonesia. I traveled with a group of seminarians and newly ordained clergy. We weren’t there to do mission work, dig wells, or build schools. Our task was simply to observe the work that was being done by Week of Compassion, the Disciples’ relief, refugee and sustainable-development mission fund, partnering with Church World Service working with food insecurity and disaster risk management.
As our group of ten traveled to remote villages, I felt like those early apostles, sent out two by two, traveling light, carrying God’s love in our hearts, being welcomed by strangers.
On the island of West Timor, we traveled for hours up a winding mountain road. Breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean on one side. We drove until the cars could no longer travel up the mountain. Then we walked up a rocky hill. A bit winded and weary, I came upon a humble cement block building nestled among the trees. In contrast to the gray and dusty cement block building, brightly colored woven cloths woven by the women of the village, hung neatly in rows.
We climbed the steps and entered the building, their church. I was surprised to see the entire village had gathered to greet us. As we were ushered to the front, a place of honor, the children of the village began to sing. The words, in Indonesian were not ones I understood, but the tune, “Amazing Grace” gave me all I needed to translate. God’s love is here and you are welcome in God’s name. Salam! Welcome! Peace be unto you!
I felt humbled, honored, and loved. God was on that mountain. God was there in our midst. We were offered food to eat from what little they had. Fish, rice, bananas. Even in scarcity, they welcomed us lavishing their food, their water, and their gifts of beautifully woven scarves, on us.
True hospitality is choosing to see another person as a child of God. When we enter into relationships with others, guided by respect, love, and mutuality, we begin to unfold God’s kingdom on earth and live into our calling of “doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly” with God and all creation.