September 06, 2016

Hospitality and entitlement and pokemon

With all the excitement in the news of Pokémon Go this summer, I was looking forward to coming back from holidays and interacting with kids in search of their elusive Pocket monster characters.  It has become quite the talking point; young folks are getting off the sofa, going outside and meeting people, especially the generation that has been seen as living lives similar to mushrooms, down in the dark basement playing endless video games.  Yes there have been some silly things associated with it, and some sad and tragic things from people who forgot their common sense, to kids getting lured into a trap and robbed at gunpoint!

I was hoping to provide hospitality to teens and young adults looking for their charmanders, pikachus and bulbasaurs here.   Unfortunately, or fortunately, we are not a Pokestop, but the old brick schoolhouse up the road from us is.  So I went up the road to the library to offer hospitality.  Pokémon were the number one requested by kids getting their faces painted at the summer library program at Alice B Donahue this week.  The motto, ‘gotta get them all’ is very familiar to them.  They appreciated the hospitality of meeting them where they were and respecting what they were interested in. 

Hospitality is one of the calling cards of Christian practise.  It’s a spiritual practise that was shocking when it first was taught by Jesus and Paul, and it still is shocking today.  Think about it a bit.  When was the last time you threw a dinner party and invited everyone to it regardless of whether they could give a dinner party back to you? Or fed people who would never have the ability or resources to bring a potluck dish to a gathering?  In Jesus’ time, banquets were business deals.  You knew how important you were in the community by where you sat at the table, and it was an opportunity to remind people of your power and wealth.  Unlike the free pancake breakfast at the Agricom yesterday, a dinner party was designed to show strength and curry favor.  Jesus suggesting that we have a dinner without political wheeling and dealing would today be more like the bank opening its doors to the vault and saying, “help yourself to whatever you find in here”.

Christian hospitality is a difficult ideal.  How do we manage it? I still struggle – is it safe to have this homeless person in my house for a night? Is that couple okay?  How do I know? When is it hospitality and when is it entitlement?  That’s the flip side of the banquet parable.  There are times we think we are entitled to the best customer service or the best deals at our favorite store.  We deserve to have a break today.  We deserve to know that we are saved and that we don’t need to do anything more to keep our souls as healthy as our bank accounts.  We download the app that says, “I have decided to accept Jesus as my savior” and we are done.  Nothing more needs to be said.

Jesus and Paul would have nothing to do with that kind of entitlement.  Much like Pokémon Go, it’s not enough to have the app on our phones, or the catch phrase on our lips, we are to get out into the big scary world and meet folks.  Talk to them, encounter them.  The game players who search for their characters know that it takes time, effort and training to become a competent Pokémon trainer.  Paul and Jesus too, want us to become not just people who made a commitment one day and figure that was all that was needed.  No, they want us to be people of the way, followers who see themselves as disciples, ever learning, ever experimenting with what it means to be a Christian.  Our church is a training gym for us to learn the skills and practises of being Christ followers.  Our sacraments of communion and baptism are visible signs of how we work together to provide hospitality as part of our Christian faith.  Baptism is a sign that we are choosing to be disciples and that we recognize it is a life-long path that goes best when it goes in community. 

Communion is that banquet where all are welcomed as part of Christ’s family to join together in joy and celebration that we are part of God’s beautiful world.  Both remind us that whether we are first timers, long timers, irregulars or still seekers, we are all welcome here.

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