Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Third Mark

The 12 marks of New Monasticism are simply 12 principles that have resurfaced in Christian communities throughout church history.

In the coming weeks, I plan to highlight each of these 12 marks, briefly explain them, and explore their significance in relation to the Mulberry House.

1) Relocation to the abandoned places of the Empire.

2) Sharing Economic Resources with Fellow Community Members and the Needy Among Us.

3) Hospitality to the stranger.

On the corner of Main and Wittenberg, within a few blocks of the house, we’ve seen him. He is an older man with a beard who lives in the doorway of an abandoned building. All his worldly possessions lay beside him in a cardboard box and, for whatever reason, he has no place to lay his head.

“Let’s invite him in for a meal.”

It is not difficult to root the concept of hospitality in Scripture. In Exodus 22:21 and 23:9, God commands the Israelites to empathize with the strangers among them, treating them with respect and dignity. Leviticus 19:33 takes the command further, suggesting that strangers passing through Israel should be treated “as one of your native born.” We find many, many examples in the Old Testament of individuals inviting in strangers and caring for them (Abraham hosting the angels, the widow of Zarephath feeding Elijah, even Rahab caring for the spies).

The New Testament translates this command to the church. Peter says that believers should offer hospitality without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9). Titus and 1 Timothy remind us that anyone seeking to become a bishop must be recognized as hospitable members of the community. In Romans 12, as he describes the conduct of Christian living (and, interestingly, NOT in 1 Corinthians 12 where he describes spiritual gifts), Paul instructs the believers in Rome to “share with God’s people who are in need” and “practice hospitality” (Rom 12:13).

And, let us not forget, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (Heb 13:2).

Consider the many times in the Gospel accounts when we read about Jesus hanging out with folks. The religious leaders always got all bent out of shape because he ate with sinners. Jesus fed multitudes, visited the outcast, and spent time among those he loved. In fact, eating meals with people was a central feature in Jesus’ earthly ministry.

When Jesus taught, he encouraged similar behavior (think of the story of the Good Samaritan, for example). He also tells us how it’s done: invite in the lame, crippled, outcast, and forgotten (Luke 14).

So, here at the Mulberry House, we want to be hospitable. Most of the time, this will manifest itself in everyday, mundane activities, such as sitting around on the couch or eating grilled cheese sandwiches. Sometimes, we may have elaborate parties, inventive festivals, or fancy dinners. And sometimes we will simply invite someone in off the street to get to know them. However it looks, we want to do hospitality. We will linger with one another, get to know one another, and simply “be” together. For this is good.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the book that makes the point very well. Maria Russell Kenney writes:

Miroslav Volf, a Croatian theologian who struggled to reconcile with his enemies during the Balkan war, says it well: "God's reception of hostile humanity into divine communion is a model for how human beings should relate to each other." Because we serve a God who welcomes true "strangers" in humanity, we are called- and are able- to welcome our own strangers as well.

This act of connection and welcome is most beautifully seen in the incarnation of God in Christ; when God, as Eugene Peterson's Message so clearly describes, “took on flesh and moved into the neighborhood.” God took seriously this business of connecting with humanity, so much that he “moved into our neighborhood.” This selfless move on the part of God has serious implications for his church. In order to welcome the stranger, one must be near and available to the stranger. Thus we may also be called to radical relocation, in order to place ourselves near enough to the “stranger” that such connection is possible… God has blazed the trail for us, and he will surely accompany us as we follow his lead.
(Schools for Conversion: 12 Marks of a New Monasticism, pg. 45).


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have just found your site (11/16)and read some of your past posts. I want you to know for the most part your absolutely right,if we as ambassaoors of the greatest kingdom ever known, owned by the one true God would realize the power we have through Jesus Christ we would realize just how big of a difference we could have a great way of putting it keep it up. we'll continue to pray for you and your work always. love in Christ