Yesterday I listened to a Roman Catholic priest address an ecumenical but predominantly Roman Catholic gathering on Baptism and Meditation. In illustrating the practice of meditation (properly “contemplation”) as an act of creating hospitable space for us to become aware of God’s constant hospitality towards us, he described how, following his full observance of the exhausting yet rich rites of Holy Week, including Passion Friday and the Easter Vigil, he sought refuge from liturgy and theology by attending his local Church of Christ, where he could simply “be.” He knew the minister, yet the church was large enough for him to be lost anonymously in the Easter Sunday crowd (or so he believed). Nevertheless, he was overwhelmed by the hospitality offered him as an anonymous visitor. He said this is what it is like to live out of our baptism which has more to do with relationship than correct liturgy and theology!
He reflected on the Hebrew word qahal (translated by the LXX as ekklesia, or in English, “church”) referring to the “ragtag band of slaves escaped from Egypt (through the waters of the Red Sea = baptism) and the journey to the Promised Land.” I discovered that Hebrew commentary on this term is more nuanced, but the history of Christian theology, particularly the African-American emancipation story, reflects such an understanding. The connections become apparent. One of the marks of the qahal was its hospitality to the foreigner in its midst. If the discipline of regular wordless contemplation immerses us in the grace of the Holy One, how can we not be hospitable to the other? How can our worshipping communities not practice this same hospitality?
I felt confirmed in my conviction that the best way Jenny and I can respond to our vocation in this new stage of retirement is to continue to expand the stance of hospitality through whatever opportunities present themselves.