Luke 10:8-12 (CEV)
8 If the people of a town welcome you, eat whatever they offer. 9 Heal their sick and say, “God’s kingdom will soon be here!”
10 But if the people of a town refuse to welcome you, go out into the street and say, 11 “We are shaking the dust from our feet as a warning to you. And you can be sure that God’s kingdom will soon be here!” 12 I tell you that on the day of judgment the people of Sodom will get off easier than the people of that town!
Humans are funny, some days.
We love it when others welcome us, but we’re often incredibly picky in terms of how we welcome them back.
We love it when people listen to us, but it’s not uncommon for us to fail to listen to them.
Many of us love to help others, and yet struggle desperately and deeply with the idea of having to accept help from another.
Yet here is this idea of a reciprocal welcome in our passage today. The 72 are told that if the people of a town welcome you, then you should eat whatever they offer, heal their sick and tell them about God’s Kingdom.
Some of the people hearing this might have struggled with the idea that no matter who the people in this town were, they were supposed to tell them about God’s Kingdom. I don’t think that would be the majority, but I guess it’s a possibility. I mean, lets face it, maybe they didn’t think these people deserved to hear the good news, right?
Some of the people hearing this might have struggled with the idea that no matter who the people in this town were, they were supposed to heal their sick. In this case, though I guess they may or may not have deemed all of the people worthy the issue was probably more because they felt inadequate or incapable of offering healing – after all, healing people wasn’t something they had a lot of experience with.
But I suspect that the part of this that people would have found the most difficult to do would be to eat whatever they offer.
You see, in middle eastern culture, eating with someone was (and is) a big deal. My brother-in-law has lived in the middle east for most of his career, and he tells stories of the lengths that people would go to not to eat with another person, because if they ate with them then they would be honour bound not to treat them badly. A person with a grudge against someone else would have to forgive them. A person who wanted to take someone down in business would no longer be socially allowed to screw the other guy over once they ate together. Eating together was (and remains) a means of solidifying the social contract – of conferring honour on another person. It was intensely personal, and intensely public at the same time.
And to top it off, for Jesus’ primarily Jewish followers, in the context of the Roman pluralism that they lived, eating together meant potentially having to confront issues about food that were critical to the beliefs and practices that the Jewish people followed. You see, some people kept kosher – they ate according to the dietary structures that had been laid down back in the Old Testament. But some people didn’t. And some people did things that were perceived of even worse by the faithful Jewish folks, like sacrificing meat to idols before eating it.
Yet Jesus tells them to eat whatever they offer. And because I think Jesus had a tendency to push people out of their comfort zones, I wonder how often people found themselves butting up against these issues as they were sent out.
“But Jesus – you can’t really mean that I have to lay down my vendetta against people like them do you???”
“But Jesus – you can’t really mean that I have to honour people from this village do you???”
“But Jesus – you can’t really mean that I have to choose love and welcome and hospitality over my beliefs do you???”
Apparently the answer to all of these questions is “yes”.Journal Questions:
- What kind of welcome do you find easy to offer?
- What kind of welcome do you find hard to offer?
- Is it easier or harder to welcome someone else? Or to allow someone else to welcome you?
- How often do you choose who you will eat with based on what is comfortable?
- How often do you choose who you will eat with based on what is uncomfortable?
At Vox we often talk about the “Rule of 3”. It’s a means of encouraging us to regularly be in relationship with one another, by having three intentional meals each week with people outside of our family. The idea is that we have at least one meal with someone from Vox, at least one meal with someone outside of Vox, and then a third meal with someone from either category. The “meal” can be coffee, pizza, or home-cooked goodness. It can be at your house or in a restaurant or in the work lunchroom. It can be just you and one other person, or both of your families, kids included. The point is to eat together, because eating together is powerful.
Who could you choose to eat with this week that would challenge you to offer the kind of welcome that you find difficult? What could you ask Jesus to do in that space to transform both you and the other person to be more like Jesus because of your shared meal?