A COMMUNITY OF RADICAL HOSPITALITY
Spiritual Abundance and Radical Hospitality
A sermon by the Rev. Dr. Robert D. Flanagan for the
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C, Luke 5:1–11
“Jesus said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’”
Many people look at life in terms of scarcity. To be human is to worry often about having enough.
Perhaps some people think of scarcity because of our ancestral roots. Thousands of years ago, people had to scratch out an existence in the wilderness. Every resource was precious because life was harsh and full of dangers. One minute a woman was alive and well, and the next minute she was hurt and dying. People faced so many risks. Maybe we still hold that feeling of scarcity in our DNA.
Another reason people may feel scarcity, as if it is a draft that chills us on a cold morning, is the change of seasons. Before refrigeration, our forebearers had to plan for the months to outlast the cold and frozen seasons of winter and early spring. From December through May, the land yielded little food. Even today, we wait to plant until late April or May, but the plants need time to grow before they can be harvested. If our farming forebearers didn’t anticipate those months, they would starve. The winter and spring seasons can be times of scarcity.
People today can feel scarcity, too. In our economy, we must mind our spending or else we’ll run out of money. Some people struggle to stay on a budget, and others simply can’t make enough. When that happens, they go hungry or become homeless. Even in our first world economy, the effects of scarcity can be felt.
All of us feel the scarcity of time. We race against time to meet the demands of life. We open our eyes in the morning and, at once, think about our to-do list. Even if we’re retired, we may still feel that our time is scarce. Our days are precious because we only have twenty-four hours.
We also feel the scarcity of energy. We may have lots to do but not enough energy. We simply get tired and though we want to accomplish more, we can’t. At the end of the day, we ease our weary bodies on the couch because our energy has run out.
We can live our lives feeling as if scarcity is a dark cloud constantly overhead. Many people go through life that way. But do they have to? The Bible shows us another way to live. In our reading this morning from Luke, Jesus showed us spiritual abundance.
Jesus was in Galilee. He was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, also known as the Sea of Galilee. A crowd had been following Jesus, and he wanted to teach them. For all of them to hear and see him, he needed Simon Peter’s boat. After Jesus finished teaching, he said to Peter, “Let’s go fishing.”
We know the answer, Peter and his workers were exhausted from fishing with nothing to show for it. But Jesus was overflowing with abundance. It seemed whenever Jesus taught that happened. Think of the feeding miracles of the 5,000 and the 4,000. The abundance of life seemed to flow from Jesus after he had taught the Word. Jesus had more to give. So he encouraged Peter to fish thus feeding him and his companions both spiritually and physically.
We know what happened. They caught so many fish that the boat almost flounder. That’s the abundance of Jesus. That is spiritual abundance. Think of it like a rose. Its pedals unfold upon each other as if there is no end to them. The unfolding pedals draw us in. They bring us close to the heart of the rose. In spiritual abundance, we’re drawn closer to the heart of God.
Here at St. Thomas, you know about spiritual abundance because its outgrowth is radical hospitality. In her book Radical Hospitality, Lonni Collins Pratt writes, “Hospitality is both the answer to modern alienation and injustice and a path to a deeper spirituality” (5). She points to a radical hospitality as a way to end loneliness and overcome feelings of scarcity. When we express a deep sense of spiritual abundance, we naturally engage in radical hospitality.
Radical hospitality is more than diversity and inclusivity. It’s more than being friendly and welcoming. Those are the ways of hospitality. Radical hospitality is more than social justice or any other moralistic view as well. Radical hospitality is a spiritual life committed to spiritual abundance.
I’m interested in your thoughts about radical hospitality. I want to hear about it because your website lists it as a defining quality of this church. If you haven’t thought about it in a while, I would like you to think about radical hospitality. I also want you to think about the ways you are living in spiritual abundance that expresses your radical hospitality—not just as a church but personally as well.
Think about the rose with its pedals tightly encircling the center. The rose embodies mystery and abundance. It is a sign from God that says, “There is more to see if you journey within.” That is spiritual abundance. There is more to discover if we journey within. There is always more to discover on our journey of faith. As we journey within ourselves, we express the abundance that grows as radical hospitality—a welcome and friendliness that is limitless and challenges us to stretch ourselves toward the stranger and the other. They are, after all, children of God.
Collins Pratt, Lonni. Radical Hospitality: Benedict’s Way of Love. 2nd ed. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2011.