Saturday, December 14, 2013

Come down from heaven, the way they do, / Disguised as strangers from abroad or whatever

Abraham was sitting at the entrance of his tent during the hottest part of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When Abraham saw them, he ran from his tent to meet them. He bowed facedown on the ground before them and said, “Sir, if you think well of me, please stay awhile with me, your servant. I will bring some water so all of you can wash your feet. You may rest under the tree, and I will get some bread for you so you can regain your strength. Then you may continue your journey.” Genesis 18:1-5

Thinking of hospitality as a major theme in a literary work may seem odd to modern readers. In Homer's world, however, hospitality is essential. Fagles and Knox refer to hospitality as a dominant part of "the only code of moral conduct that obtains in the insecure world of The Odyssey." Cliff Notes

It may see a bit odd for an English teacher to be quoting Cliff Notes early Saturday morning, but remember I have approximately 176 Odyssey essays (thesis, support, detail, support, detail, conclusion) to grade this weekend. And 46 character sketches. And 46 final exams. And 308 game board evaluations.  And 17 biome community service project proposals. And I know I assigned all of this work but I have pretty good rubrics and actually I enjoy each and every single paper because it is a conversation of sorts with a student that I have grown to know and love over the semester, and I am so very, happy happy sometimes with the depth and articulation of the thinking. It is just the endlessness of the stacks that I am hauling around that weighs on my mind. And major themes.

Telemachus saw Athene (disguised as a visitor, Mentes, chief of the Taphians) long before any one else did. He caught sight of her and went straight to the gate, for he was vexed that a stranger should be kept waiting for admittance. He took her right hand in his own and said, "Welcome, to our house, and when you have partaken of food you shall tell us what you have come for." He led the way as he spoke, and Athene followed him. He conducted her to a richly decorated seat under which he threw a cloth of damask. There was a footstool also for her feet, and he set another seat near her for himself, away from the suitors, that she might not be annoyed while eating by their noise and insolence. (1.118-134)

And Abraham did a great job of hospitality. He had Sarah prepare loaves of bread from twenty quarts of fine flour and killed his finest calf and served it up cooked in curds and milk.  And this hospitality was a great example for the LORD conversing with Himself, “I have chosen him so he would command his children and his descendants to live the way the Lord wants them to, to live right and be fair.” Hospitality is right and fair. We are all sojourners on this earth, this insecure world.

And I may grumble about a lot of things, but inviting others into my home is not one of them. Nor doing dishes. Somehow it fills me with happiness. And maybe even the closely correlated and quite necessary trip to Fry’s, which has the added bonus of announcing to me on the bottom of the receipt that I saved over 40%, which is a quiet little game I play, two or three times a week. And I am about to head on over, before swim practice this morning.

Man, what a privilege it has been to share our table with so many people, Even just this week, the candlelit conversations bring a sense of wonder at what a delight it all is.

And how I long for this to be true: All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. What a joy it will be to hear the words of The King, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

And I wonder how many angels have walked through the bright blue front door.