Open Hearts, Open Hands

By Reverend Amanda,

My sister-in-law Adrienne was in the Peace Corps and lived in Costa Rica for 2 years. So when looking into hospitality, I thought it was important to understand hospitality in different cultures. So I spoke with her about her experiences with hospitality in the very rural small village of Costa Rica she lived in. What she shared with me was that when she first arrived she was welcomed into her host family’s home to a feast of Chicken fried rice, homemade cheese, and coffee. They had a room prepared for her and went out of their way make sure there was a comfortable place for her to sit in a culture that may not have enough seating in the home to seat everyone in the family. Making your guests feel comfortable is the most important thing in Costa Rican culture. Although, Adrienne also informed me that unexpected guests is a bit of a taboo in that village because the host hadn’t the time to prepare food and to acquire what was needed to appropriately welcome someone into their homes. Hospitality is a point of pride for many Latin American cultures as it seems to be universally throughout the world. Hospitality is not just about pride and family but a religious practice.

Every culture welcomes people, shows hospitality differently, in Turkey they view their guests as “God’s Guests” and thus they need to be honored as God would want us to welcome others. 1 In Bulgaria, a hostess may rarely sit down with you but views their role as your servant and to care for your every need. In ancient Israel, guests would stay for days and it was expected that the hosts would butcher an animal and hold a feast in their honor and we see this in the accounts of Abraham and the angels on their way to Sodom and Gomorrah. Today we see it in the account of Paul’s conversion of Lydia. Upon conversion, we hear that Lydia prevailed upon Paul and he stayed with her and her family who would later all convert. It was important to Lydia to show honor towards Paul for the message that he shared and she did so through the sacred act of hospitality.2 Hospitality is sacred in the Bible, and in the ancient world. It appears often in our scriptures. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah would be destroyed partially for their lack of hospitality and Lot and his family would be saved because of hospitality.

Hospitality is how people first came into contact with the message of God, the message of the holy. In the ancient world most people were not literate so they did not read the scriptures, in the early years of Genesis and Exodus there were not scriptures or written records of God’s work in the world. Everything was shared through word of mouth in times of hospitality because in return for your gracious host creating a feast in your honor you shared with them the news and experiences of the day. Psalm 67 says, “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon the earth”.3 Here we see the Psalmist extending the hospitality of God to all peoples. All people, all nations, have received the blessings of God. Lydia had received the message of Christ from the apostles and in return she insisted on inviting them to stay with her family to show them the hospitality that she felt from the Lord. In their stay the message of Christ would have been shared in their times of feasting through stories, laughter and questions. Lydia accepted them into her home without question. She honored them through her welcome.

1 Moran, Robert T., Neil Remington Abramson, and Sarah V. Moran. Managing Cultural Differences. 9th ed. New York: Routlegde, 2014, 312.

2 Acts 16: 9-15, NRSV.

3 Psalm 67: 4, NRSV