Together Series – Gratitude and Hospitality

Readings for this week May 2 – 6
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Together_-_Cover (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 1 – Gratitude at a Cost

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 22:14-23
Thanksgiving isn’t always easy. Perhaps we have a tendency to think that it should be. Because we naturally find it easier to be grateful for the good stuff, the things we like or enjoy, we seem to think that that is how it should always be. We often feel that there should be some sort of reason for our gratitude, or at least some appropriate acknowledgement that we have had the grace to be grateful for something good. We offer gratitude when we are offered something ourselves.

There will certainly be times when we won’t want to give thanks, when we will not want to respond with thanksgiving and gratitude in certain circumstances – times when maybe we even feel justified in being affronted and offended.

Jesus offers a different way. “On the night he was betrayed” – wouldn’t most of us think that such a night would be the perfect time to forego giving thanks, to perhaps (understandably we would say) be distracted by other concerns and worries? But even on this night, his last night, surrounded by his closest friends, all of whom would abandon him, one of whom would specifically lead the authorities in his arrest, another who would emphatically deny all knowledge of him three times, Jesus takes the bread and gives thanks for it. He still said thanks, offering up the bread and, later that evening, his life. He brought an attitude of grace and thanksgiving to this most dreadful of evenings.

Questions to Consider
What makes it hard for you to give thanks? What situations do you find it hard to give in/for?

Prayer
Lord God, help me give thanks in the hard times and in the difficult situations of life. Help me seek your presence in all times and places, even when you seem absence. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – The One and the Nine

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 17:11-19
Jesus heals ten lepers. Only one comes back to thank him, which, for the jaded, might not be so surprising (the fact that that one was a Samaritan definitely is though!). The first thing to notice is that there is initially no mention of healing. Jesus simply tells them all to go and show themselves to the priests. (The priests would be the ones someone would go to in order to verify any healing, so that the priests could officially declare that the person was welcomed back into the community of the faithful – no more ostracism needed. And perhaps Jesus wants the priests to hear yet more stories of miraculous healings by Jesus…) Their healing seems to stem from their obedience to Jesus – it is only as they are doing this that they are healed.

There are many stories in Luke that show people’s gratitude (or, in this case, lack of) towards God for the things that he is doing in and through Jesus. It is interesting that Jesus’ initial comment was not about the one who did come back, but about the nine who didn’t – a sign perhaps that Jesus notices our ingratitude. God’s graciousness is often overlooked, ignored, or simply taken for granted. And sometimes the full measure of God’s blessing is only apparent to those who are grateful. Only the leper who returned heard the words “Your faith has made you well.” His gratitude has revealed his faith. Jesus commends him and tells him he is grateful for his expression of thankfulness.

Questions to Consider
Why do you think the leper who returned to thank Jesus did so? Why do you think the others didn’t?

Prayer
Loving Father, forgive me for the times when I have not stopped to thank you for the blessings you have given me. Help me be more grateful in future, to you and to others in my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – What To Be Grateful For

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Thessalonians 5:18
What would we find if we were to scour the bible for instances of people expressing gratitude? What would we discover them being thankful for? What reasons would they have for being grateful?

One interesting thing that emerges from even a brief perusal of this type of biblical passage is that often the bible gives no reason for being grateful. The text simply instructs us to thank God. That’s it. No reason or explanation needed. And often, in the Psalms especially, God is thanked simply for who he is, for his traits and characteristics.

One important thing to notice about these instances of thankfulness in the bible is that they are all about relationships, or about our circumstances in our relationships with others. No mention is made of people’s possessions or property. We are simply encouraged to avoid focusing on events or things, and to focus on God, and on people. And that seems to be the key. It is easy to be thankful for ‘things’, especially in a culture such as ours where so many have so much (which can also, curiously, devalue our attitude to gratitude – why be grateful for things that just turn up almost as of right?). But to remember to be grateful for people and relationships is harder – probably because people and relationships are tricky things that can cause grief, as well as joy. But gratitude is a relational matter. Without it people and the relationships between them wither away.

Questions to Consider
What stops us from noticing the goodness of God? How can we change this?

Prayer
Lord, make me a grateful person. Help me take the time to look around and see the things that I should be grateful for, and then to thank you for your gracious goodness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Eating With the Enemy…and Others

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Romans 5:10
Who should we invite to share with us? Who should we share ourselves and our lives with? Our friends and people we like? No, Jesus calls us to something quite different. He said, ‘Love your neighbour’ and made it quite clear that absolutely everyone was included in the definition of neighbour, even those we consider our enemies. God has told us the kind of person to whom we should show hospitality, and for many of us, if we are honest, it isn’t the kind of person we might have first thought of.

Many people find it hard enough to think that Jesus asks us to pray for our enemies, and for those who persecute us. But even more than this he asks us to dine with our enemies. After all, we ourselves were once enemies of God (Romans 5:10) and yet he still invited us to his table. And he calls us to do the same. And that will include all sorts of people, including strangers, the marginalised, the outcast, those our society deems ‘unclean’, and even our enemies.  We need to learn to dine and live and fellowship in our local communities, with people we don’t like and who don’t like us. Anyone and everyone is welcome to the table. Maybe we are at the table because we are part of the same community. Maybe we’re there because we serve the same king. Or maybe the only thing we’ll have in common with each other is being made in the image of our creator. That should be more than enough to begin with.

Questions to Consider
Who do you know that might be ‘not invited’ to God’s table? Who would qualify as your enemy? Pray for these people today, asking God to give you his love for them.

Prayer
God of compassion, give me your heart for others, all others, so that I may open my heart as I open my door and my life to those you love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Transforming Hospitality

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Corinthians 10:17
Hospitality is transformative. It isn’t just something we do (or are supposed to do). The very act of being hospitable, of opening up our homes and tables to sit down and share with others, transforms lives and relationships. As Cesar Chavez said, “If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him – the people who give you their food give you their heart.” Often we find this hard to do with those we don’t know. Inviting our friends to the table is easy; inviting strangers is hard. But many people in the world, in communities not divorced from the necessity of the communal process of sowing/growing/harvesting/eating, have no choice but to eat with strangers and even enemies, as well as friends. They understand what it means to say ‘our’ table. We struggle to look beyond ‘my’ table.

Hospitality is not something asked of perfect Christ-like people so they may prove their Christ-likeness. It is one of the central means by which stumbling, wayward disciples are transformed into Christ-likeness. As Henri Nouwen once wrote: “When we gather around the table and break the bread together, we are transformed not only individually but also as community. We, people from different ages and races, with different backgrounds and histories, become one body…Not only as individuals but also as community we become the living Christ, taken, blessed, broken, and given to the world. As one body, we become a living witness of God’s immense desire to bring all peoples and nations together as the one family of God.”

Question to Consider
How has receiving the hospitality of others transformed your life?

Prayer
Lord God, may I be known for my hospitality, for opening up my home to others the way you opened up the kingdom for all to come in. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)