The Hospitality of Gentleness and Humility
July 7th, 2019 - Rev Kate Byrd
The Hospitality of Gentleness and Humility
When I was a Sophomore in High School I traveled to France with my school on an immersion experience trip. Which basically meant I was dropped off in a rural French town, with a family who spoke little to no English and so we learned to live together beyond language for a week. While the rest of my classmates had a partner in their home placements, my partner had dropped out of the trip last minute, and so I was the lone English speaking person in my new home. The family consisted of a mom and her son, and a tiny dog named Tina.
On the first night in my new home the host mom told me (or at least I interpreted) that she had prepared a great feast. Her son remarked how this was a big deal (and that I might also be wary) since she did not cook. As we sat down for dinner, the mom brought out a giant salad of shredded carrots and raisins, and began dishing out heaping spoonfuls onto my plate. Being a proper Southerner, I of course remembered my manners and politely ate it all. As soon as I finished, she asked if I wanted more. I quickly became concerned that this might be the whole meal, since I didn’t see any other food in the kitchen. So, I obliged, and she continued heaping spoonfuls onto my plate until I had consumed more than half my body weight in carrots and raisins, while they stared at me with, while they tried not to gawk at the amount I had just inhaled. Then, my host mom got up from the table and went to prepare the second dish, chicken cordon blu. It was at that moment I truly wished I had paid more attention in French class, and could have somehow better interpreted that carrot salad was not the entire meal, and a far better dish was following behind. Instead of having incessantly nodded my head as she spoke quickly to me in a language I soon realized I was not at all proficient in.
That pretty much sums up how the entire week unraveled. I would be confused about what was going on, and my host family and I, realizing I was completely unaware of their countries customs or language, would begin to laugh together at our inability to fully comprehend one another, as they continued to try and help me feel comfortable, and I them. At the end of the week, while we had shared very few intelligible conversations, I believe we truly grew closer together, and created a special bond that often involved simply being together, enjoying food (other then carrot salad), and more often than not the beautiful connection that comes in the form of vulnerable and authentic presence.
Helen Benton recently shared this quote at our Wednesday Eucharist, from Julian of Norwich, “when we, by the action of mercy and grace, are made gentle and humble, we are completely safe." Which I believe is exactly what Jesus is implying as he commissions the seventy to go out and share the Good News of the Kingdom of God, to all nations. Because the hospitality of the seventy is shown in their mission of peace as they enter unknown nations and homes casting aside any forms of self-centeredness or personal gain, and simply taking on grateful presence through shared meals and conversation. In this way the apostles become gentle and humble, not only for the sake of their protection, but also for the sake of the kingdom of God. Because it is in this nature that they can fully share the peace of God, passing it on to those who receive it, and simply retaining it when others turn it away.
At the core of Jesus’ message for today, I believe, is an invitation to share and enjoy the kingdom of God with one another, through our ability to become humble and gentle with ourselves and with one another. Becoming gentle enough to greet and receive strangers, and humble enough to share our lives and our stories with others.
I will always remember my host family from France with warmth and fondness because together we became gentle and humble as we worked to share as much of our selves with one another as we could, often laughing, and always taking comfort in the fact that we were sharing in this experience together. In that endeavor I believe we came to understand and know each other beyond language, as we shared together the gift of human relationship, and connection.
Might it be that proclaiming “The Kingdom of God has come near”, is as simple as becoming gentle and humble enough to offer the peace of Christ to others? I believe it might be. What would it look like for us to become gentle and humble? Or, to greet others with the sign of Christ’s peace? I wonder if it might look like lending a listening ear, when we truly disagree with someone else? Or maybe it looks like having a meal with a new neighbor or co-worker? Or even if it looks like simply offering an encouraging word when we encounter strangers in our daily lives, at the coffee shop, or in the check out lines. These might be good places to start. And, you may have others. But, I would encourage us to consider, how we can bring the Kingdom of God a little closer to this world, by offering our own greeting of peace (maybe with words or maybe beyond words), as we learn what it means to become a little more gentle and little more humble with ourselves and others.