In Luke Ten’s paradigmatic text followers of Jesus are instructed to “Remain in the same house…” The work of the church is not a “bait and hook” strategy, a onetime service project, short term mission or volunteer opportunity in a space. We’re being sent to a place, to become part of the very fabric of the neighbourhood; to take up residency and dwell among. As we think about this verse, we are reminded of the incredible hospitality that is evident in Scriptures; strangers are welcomed!
Community is “Out There”
We also must take notice of the communal nature of their living, so unlike the cocooning into our own private dwellings that has been so prevalent in our modern culture and is now being challenged by a post-commuter shift. The ‘seventy’ are being sent to join in with the social and economic rhythms of the community, working alongside the townspeople (like Paul and his entourage) enjoying meals and ‘sleepovers’ with them; doing life together. The command to “eat what is set before you” is repeated. Recalling that they have been sent to towns where there were likely many Gentiles, Jesus was essentially instructing them to break the rules, to ‘leave behind’ the policies and parameters of the religious institution and make a way for peace and reciprocity. I imagine that this was huge. Perhaps it still is huge for some in the church today, both literally (we may be eating octopus!) and metaphorically.
Getting Comfortable with Being Less Comfortable
What might we need to embrace in our neighbourhoods that might make us/ the church uncomfortable; that might defy our rules and rituals? But, “if I refuse to meet this neighbor, even though he may appear to be ungodly to me, says Barth, I may deny the Christ living in me.” For some going to the local pub might feel like a stretch, for another it might be participating in the yoga class at the community hall with some neighbours. In any case it is a shift from expecting people to come into our comfort zone and adopt our practices, as has so often been the expectation of Christendom churches. The mission of Jesus and of His followers in contrast, is apparent: live among. Do life with your diverse neighbours as they do it where they live. Do life among as a vulnerable one; with the grace and humility to accept what your neighbours have to give; ‘eating’ what is set before you. It makes receiving hospitality as crucial to ministry— participating in God’s mission as “healing the sick who are there.” Scott Hagley explains, “In the framework of the instructions, eating, healing, proclaiming are all set alongside one another. The eating is just as direct an instruction as the other two.
Receiving What’s Offered
I think we catch glimpses of God’s mission depending upon the hospitality of the one to whom we are sent in the Philip-Ethiopian interaction, in Peter-Cornelius as well. I’m actually beginning to think that this is critical even to any approach to missional ecclesiology: that the church necessarily depends upon the hospitality of its neighbourhood for its very life.”
Similarly Alan Roxburgh asserts that, “discerning what God is doing is tied to entering and becoming present to the people of the neighbourhoods and communities where we live. The way this entering is to be done is critical — invited to become like strangers, willing to enter the world of the other to receive hospitality from our neighbour.”
Isn’t it time for you to have supper with your neighbours?
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