Third Stone: Hospitality

Generosity, spontaneity, inclusiveness
Welcoming, sharing
Grace and forgiveness

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1)

"You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." (Deuteronomy 10:19)

"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it." (Hebrews 13:2)

Aristotle regarded hospitality as the chief of all virtues. An attitude of spontaneous generosity and friendliness toward others is one of the hallmarks of spiritual enlightenment. It has its origin in a profound sense of gratitude that spills over into in impulse to share one's good fortune with others. The hospitable person recognizes a kinship with all creation. The poor, the weak, the marginalized, the vulnerable and strangers are the first recipients of hospitality because their need generates feelings of compassion and empathy in a generous heart.

Hospitality is a sign of joy and kinship. Native American people celebrate special occasions such as birthdays and the winning of a special honor by a "giveaway". The person who is honored is the one who gives the gifts to the guests. It is more blessed and also more joyful to give than to receive and it also is a sign of a noble spirit. Genuine hospitality is spontaneous. The giver doesn't sit down and decide if she can afford or spare the effort or if it will produce a profit or certain results. It isn't offered to enhance the status of the giver but because the one giving is focused on the well-being of the other person.

Hospitality is a welcoming attitude towards others for their own sake. It doesn't differentiate between persons because of social status, income, ethnic or religious differences. It delights in diversity and novelty. Hospitality is creative and ingenious in seeking ways to include as many as possible.

Hospitality is an act of redemption as well as a celebration. It not only forgives faults in others, it doesn't notice them. The hospitable person is only too aware of her own needs and shortcomings and of her own need for forgiveness. She is not only generous with what she has, she is generous in her assessment of others; in forgiving and accepting people. She exhibits an attitude of humility that looks for ways to serve the needs of others rather than being served. The hospitable person is not envious or covetous for all of us have been the stranger, the one on the outside, poor or weak in some way. In the ancient world, hospitality to the stranger was a holy obligation. We all have been strangers in the land of Egypt. We all have been brought into a good place through the efforts of others.

In the Genesis creation stories, cosmic hospitality was God's first act. God created a world that was good and filled with all the things we need to get along and live well. God's hospitality includes not only giving us abundantly all we need, but also God's gracious acceptance of us and generosity toward us in loving and forgiving us when we don't deserve it. When we extend hospitality to others, it is a reflection of gratitude to and trust in a generous God.

Hospitality is essential to community. The wider and more inclusive our circles of hospitality, the greater the chance for lasting peace and goodwill. Even more important, genuine hospitality reflects an awareness of the interconnectedness of all life and our interdependence. Inasmuch as we care for "the least of these our brothers and sisters", we care for ourselves.

The Gospel of Luke is the gospel of hospitality. Jesus went out of his way to befriend and help people whom others had shut out and disapproved of. In doing so, he helped us understand God's hospitality to us when we are in need and calls on us to imitate God's hospitality.

Fourth Stone: Stewardship