When We Don't Want Unexpected Guests
#WhenWeDontWantUnexpectedGuests is the podcast for Aug 6, 2017. In the United States, people do not look kindly on unexpected guests. Come back later! Call ahead! Not so in the Middle East and apparently not with Jesus either. How does that inform us on how we ought to live? Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Matthew14 #IndianaUniversity #Ethics #Guests #Hospitality #Compassion #Abundance #Generosity #Prayer #DonaldTrump #HillaryClinton
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For the Church of St. Raphael the Archangel and My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 8/6/2017 The 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 14:13-21.
We are a people of compassion and abundance.
To support myself so that I can do this ministry, I teach a courses at two local community colleges. One of my students in my business ethics course was scheduled to go work in a refugee camp in Lebanon for two weeks during the six week summer class I am teaching. Upon returning, she wrote a paper that talked about the ethical differences between the middle east and here in the United States. We have a tendency, in the United States, to think of middle easterners with scarves on their heads, covering their faces, and AR-14 automatic rifles raised in their hands above their heads.
Yet, her contrast of ethics in the Middle East and here in the U.S. when it comes to hospitality were damning. In the U.S., if someone just shows up at your house, you stand in such a way as to create a barrier to entry into your house. You let them know you are not prepared, wished they had called ahead, and ask if they can come again. Not so in Lebanon, according to my student. The ethics of hospitality require that you would be open and ready when a person just shows up. It is OK. There is an openness to them. You even set aside what you are doing and take care of your guests. The people, not your plans, are your priority.
In our Gospel today, we find Jesus going up to a remote area out of the desired reach of Herod who now wants to kill him after killing John the Baptist. Jesus wants to be alone and pray. Yet, because he is so AWESOME, the people chase him down in his retreat. He doesn’t stand in the door so they can’t come into his house. He doesn’t ask them if they can come when it is more convenient. He doesn’t even worry about what he does not have to give them. He has compassion on them.
Jesus’ compassion on those who interrupted his retreat was so profound that he began to heal them of their diseases. Then, toward the end of the day, when he could have, at the disciples urging, sent them away into the towns to find food, he wants to feed them. We tend to focus on the miracle of this. We focus on the fact that this meal, with its taking, blessing, breaking, and giving is indeed a pre-Eucharistic meal. We should. We should also focus on how this miracle meal of feeding the five thousand men plus women and children is a transition from the time of John, to the time of Jesus. It is an ushering in of the renewal of the world.
In this day when we no longer answer the phone until we have checked to see who it is, or listen to voice mails if we don’t recognize the number, we might be reminded that life is not about just protecting ourselves from the world. Life is about people. It is about having compassion for people. Human beings are important. Those who supported Donald Trump and those who supported Hillary Clinton are people. Those who are still fighting for the South in the cultural War of the Confederacy and those who are in the “liberal elite” are people. Those who are in the Middle East and those who are from the West are people.
It is instructive to us that the mountain on which Jesus is feeding these Jews is in Gentile territory. Jews and Gentiles are supposed to hate each other. Not with Jesus around. He is feeding everyone. He is healing everyone. He does not see them as Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, as Poles, Egyptians, Russians, or Chinese. He sees them all as human beings who need to be healed and fed.
If we are to follow Jesus, we are going to have to wrap our minds around the fact that our Lord operates within a spirit of compassion and generosity. It is a spirit that welcomes people where they are and walks with them in such a way that helps get to where they need to be. We [, as a community of faith,] need to have the same disposition. We can vehemently disagree with people about what is morally right and wrong and still live out our morals to love one another as we would love ourselves.
Another significant thing about this miracle is that it marks a mindset that needs to be kept in the church: abundance. Wars are fought when people start thinking from a position of scarcity. People are shooed away when we think of things from scarcity. Whatever we have, we have it because God has given it. We receive it and give it away. This is how we should think of our time, our money, our love, our view of the world. It is a miracle that we have been given life itself. All the food we eat is not earned. It is given. Work is a gift. Relationships are a gift. It all comes from God.
We, as a people who gather in [community] communities of faith, are to be examples of the generosity that Jesus shows us from start to finish in the feeding of the 5,000 men plus women and children. My foreign exchange son who is a restauranteur estimated that even the simple meal served to the nearly 10,000 people that day would cost around $30,000. What generosity! What compassion!
We can imagine things like this because we are the people who believe the storehouses of heaven are full and flowing over. We know that what little we have will be made into much by the Father in Heaven. Jesus will take our little and use it to impact many. There are many ways we could look at ourselves and think of the things we don’t have, like the disciples did. Yet, there are things that we do have and can give. When we do, it is like yeast in dough, a mustard seed planted, and five loaves and two fish.
Abundance expects miracles. Abundance assumes the hand of the Father is in the work we do. Abundance assumes we can make it work if it means we show compassion, love and goodness to a hurting world.
Lastly, I want us to take notice that after Jesus made sure that the crowds were cared for, he didn’t lose sight of his need to pray. We don’t see this in the passage. It is in the next few verses after the ones we hear today. We need to know that after he had compassion; after he healed and fed them, gave to his disciples and taught them to give; after all of that, he went and prayed, which was why he came to the mountain in the first place.
We need to pray together always. We need to trust in God’s abundance and live compassionately through our faith always. When we do, we will heal others and feed them in ways they never expected, all to the Glory of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2017
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian