The Heavenly Stranger’s Hospitality

Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 10.54.12 AMAt the heart of God’s mission in the world is hospitality; at the heart of human existence is receiving hospitality; at the heart of the Christian mission in the world is offering hospitality to the world. This theme of hospitality theme has been wonderfully explored in Joshua Jipp, Saved by Faith and Hospitality.

Jipp begins a chapter on Jesus as the heavenly stranger who offers hospitality to humans by comparing J.K.A. Smith’s focus on desire, a thoroughly Augustinian thing to focus on, to the lack of flourishing and happiness among Americans and then turns to the Gospel of John to press upon his readers the value of the theme of hospitality for human flourishing.

In other words, humans order their desires, emotions, and loves to what they think will result in life, joy, and human flourishing. James K. A. Smith hi

And yet it is worth pondering whether our desires and loves are accurately aimed at what will satisfy our craving for life:.

The direction of human love and desire, it would seem for at least many, is misdirected and disordered as the object of love—whether it be the material satisfaction of the desires of a consumer, recreation and entertainment, ideologies of power and prestige, or sexual gratification—and fails to make good on humanity’s quest for life.

So to turn to the Gospel of John’s vision: Life, God who is Life itself sharing divine Life with us, and our finding in Jesus the Life of God:

This is the mission of Jesus: to make God known to broken, lonely humans who are alienated from God and from one another and to thereby give the life of God—the life that is shared between the Father and the Son—to humans who are longing for life.

How do humans find this life? The answer: In Jesus!

If God is from above and God alone can give humans life, then how is it that humans can come to know this God and receive life? The Gospel of John presents Jesus as the heavenly stranger who through the incarnation shares divine knowledge and presence with alienated humans by enabling them to partake of the hospitality of God.

So if this is Jesus’s mission, then how is Jesus able to impart this saving knowledge of God to humanity?

Jipp has found a way — and the way is solid — to show that the fundamentals of redemption in the Bible can be explained through the language of hospitality. Once this theme comes to the fore in John’s Gospel we see the wisdom of Jipp’s choice of language. Notice the terms that are central to John that are connected to the theme of hospitality:

Jesus uses the primary symbols of hospitality and acts as divine host to humanity as he shares the saving and revelatory presence of God through wine (2:1-11), water (4:4-42), bread (6:1-71), washing his disciples’ feet (13:1-20), and providing an eternal home (14:1-6). All of the elements of hospitality symbolize God’s hospitality to humans who, are in need of the revelatory and saving presence of Jesus.

Not on their own, these terms: they are tied to the irony of hospitality in the cross:

We have seen that each one of these hospitality symbols is connected to the crucified body of Jesus. Jesus’s provision of good wine foreshadows the hour when the glory of God and the glorification of Jesus are revealed at the cross (for example 12:27-36). Jesus’s provision of water takes place after Jesus is glorified at the cross and sends forth the Spirit (7:37-39; 19:34; 20:19-23)- And the bread of life is explicitly and forcefully associated with Jesus’s broken body and shed blood (6:53-58). Thus, God’s hospitality that gives life to the world is the revelation of Jesus’s divine identity in his mission to give life to the world through his death.

So Jipp turns the theme of hospitality for life in the death of Jesus toward the mission of the church:

The mission of the church is to participate in God’s hospitality whereby Jesus extends life and redemption to humans who are alienated from God and each other.

Which means the church being hospitable:

The Gospel of John suggests that one way to conceptualize the church’s mission is by inviting others into experiencing God’s hospitality just as Jesus enters into hospitality scenarios and provides the opportunities for evangelism whereby people may experience life through almost every element of hospitality practices.

If the church is the place where the bread of life, the living water, and divine friendship are now experienced, then those committed to evangelistic hospitality will seek to extend these life-giving realities through opening up our spaces of worship to visitors and outsiders.

At the heart of God’s mission in the world is hospitality; at the heart of human existence is receiving hospitality; at the heart of the Christian mission in the world is offering hospitality to the world.

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