Today we wrap up our discussion on hospitality. Here’s what we have learned:
Hospitality makes room. This is “zimzum” – divine contraction for the sake of others.
Specifically, hospitality is about making room for those who are different than we are. We are to make room in our lives for “the other.”
Hospitality is difficult. It costs and requires work. The psychology of disgust teaches us that boundary spanning hospitality is really difficult.
So how in the world are we supposed to accomplish this?
It may be helpful to go back to this idea of “zimzum.”
In the Scriptures, we actually find two kinds of creation taking place. There is the original creation, or Creation from nothing, and then New Creation.
Last week we explored Creation from nothing and zimzum. This teaches us a lot about the nature of God and hospitality. So a few more comments here.
One, zimzum is for everyone. God contracts for the sake of all of creation. No one is excluded. In order for humans to exist, there must be divine contraction. If a human being exists, he or she has been offered divine hospitality.
Two, If we have been given the offer of hospitality, we have all been invited to be participants with God in the act of co-creation. The goal of creation was never static. It was always going somewhere. Hospitality is an invitation to join in the self-giving and loving creation dance of God. When we accept the invitation of God’s hospitality we are embarking on an adventure to create something new and beautiful and unique in the world alongside God.
Hospitality is an invitation to participate in the work of God in the world. God is hospitable with a purpose. When we accept the invitation of hospitality, there is now something we are doing together with God.
But as we said last week, the zimzum of God is very vulnerable. It might all go wrong.
And it does. The human beings who have been offered this glorious place at the table to co-create with God made and are making a mess of the whole thing.
So God begins the work of New Creation. The zimzummy hospitality of creation from nothing is when human beings come into existence. But after this all goes wrong, God begins another act of hospitality. God comes to us.
The zimzummy hospitality of New Creation is the cross. God become human, meets us where we are, and takes on all the ways things have gone wrong. A perfect God takes on humanity’s worst in the ultimate embrace of the other. And God does this to once again offer all of humanity a place at the table and a part to play.
Once again, we are invited to be a part of bringing this new creation into being.
We are called to be agents of hospitality. We are called to make room for the other through cross-like, self-giving love that welcomes and embraces all humanity and offers each person a part to play in the ongoing Story of God.
All that we need to know about God and Christ and ourselves, we discover at the Table. In fact, the act of communion is where we participate in the zimzum of God.
The Table is an invitation to all of humanity, and bridges our difference through the life-giving act of the cross. The Table is where we remind ourselves we have to move over and make room for those who are not like us. The Table is a place where we embrace each other and welcome each other.
The Table is where we remember the cost of this. The Table reminds us of the sacrifice of the cross, and the claim that makes on our lives. The Table reminds us we are to reflect the God of the cross to the world.
As Richard Beck says, the table also takes care of our disgust. In order to overcome the difficulty of bodily disgust, we would need a ritual where we do something bodily and embrace the other in the process. There is nothing more bodily than a meal.
The Table gives us a place where we actually include those who disgust us. Hospitality is the initial act of God towards humans, so the Table – love and acceptance and inclusion – should be our initial act towards those we see as disgusting or other or “sinners.”
Which is exactly how Jesus operated. And when we do this, we are participating in and co-creating the New Creation. The Table is not only the work of the New Creation, but it is an invitation for all to join in this work.
How would your church/work/family/relationships look if we started at the table? How would your life be different if you realized your part to play in the mission of God was to embrace the other and offer the hospitality of God through a simple act of eating together?
We often start with disgust – we begin with what is wrong with others or even ourselves. Over the next few weeks we will talk about how this affect how we see God, our faith, our churches, and even how we disagree. But for today, let’s remember that disgust is not where God starts. God starts with hospitality. And we remind ourselves of this each time we sit at that table.
At the Table we recognize the hospitality of God in creation and in the cross. We remember the zimzum of Jesus being broken and poured out for the life of the world.
And as Christians, we are accepting the responsibility of making all of our tables look more like this one. Communion is a recognition and an invitation. When we take the bread and the wine, we accept our responsibility for enacting the hospitality of God at whatever tables we find ourselves.