Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Hospitality by Ps Dave Podhaczky

Last weekend, my wife and I went hiking with some friends at one of our favourite places, Wilson’s Prom. After a morning spent packing, food shopping, driving and comparing packs, we eventually set off on our hike.
The first leg skirts around the coastal edge of Mt Oberon and into Little Oberon Bay, a lovely little spot for a muesli bar and chat break. From there, a lovely coastal track leads on to Oberon Bay, which was our destination for the night. The camp sites at Oberon Bay can be found on little tracks that branch off either side of the central campsite track. Many of the sites had already been taken, although at a squeeze most of these could have accommodated more people. Our group split up to search for the best available site and several of us gravitated towards a largish area right at the end of the track. There was probably enough room for 4-5 tents there (our group was 12 people). It would be perfect for meals together and any of the tents that did not fit could squeeze into other sites. However, before we even had the chance to take our packs off, another camper came stomping over and sharply told us that this was their site, which they had booked and paid for and that there was not enough room for us. We would have to find somewhere else to camp. 

Well needless to say, we were taken aback at this welcome. Almost all of the hikers I have encountered on my adventures have been lovely and helpful. Not this time. After we recovered from the initial shock of this verbal spray, we pointed out several things in favour of us camping in this spot: there are no site numbers - people can camp wherever they like within the designated areas. We would be several metres away from the other group; there were not many other options. However, as we were explaining these things, one of our group came to inform us that they had found a better spot. So off we went to leave these unhappy campers to their prized site! As we were putting the finishing touches on our camp setup, another group of hikers came looking for a spot to setup. We sent them in the direction of the other site, with a word of caution about the inhospitable neighbours there.

Hospitality is a theme that runs throughout both the Old and New Testaments and was an integral part of Mediterranean culture during Jesus’ time. Beautiful examples of this type of hospitality can be seen in Homer’s The Odyssey, as Telemachus travels in search of his father, Odysseus. Telemachus is repeatedly taken in with feasting and departs with gifts. Obviously there are significant cultural differences between Mediterranean hospitality and much of our individualistic, self-centred, busy lives here in post-modern Melbourne. However, there is no harm in reflecting on our attitude towards hospitality and whether our lives and attitudes are in alignment with scriptures such as 1 Peter 4:8-9 which says:

"Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another."

What is your first response when someone interrupts your plans, comfort or night? Is it to find an excuse, or to tell them to rack off (like our hiking friend from earlier)? Or is it to see an opportunity to share a cup of water, meal, kind word or listening ear with someone that needs it? After all, Jesus said himself that when we do this, it as though we give him a drink.

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