We are not as open a society as we once were – witness the demise of front-facing verandas (moved to the great privacy of the back garden) to be replaced by (automatic) garage doors and or 1.8m high fences with keypad operated gates.
We acknowledged that the idealistic image of veranda-sitting wasn’t the only way of getting to know your neighbours – but this is much harder than it used to be with different working times, busy lives, more people renting and therefore more transient and increasing use of technology to allow choice of friendships not just with one’s physical neighbours!
We acknowledged that our homes are both a place of retreat from busyness and work but also a place to entertain and be hospitable.
On the road to Emmaus, the disciples had an opportunity to think about the events in Jerusalem around the Passover in a less emotional atmosphere, they were then joined by a fellow traveller which extended their discussion and thinking further; when they sat down to eat suddenly something made them recall similar situations when Jesus had been present and they realised that their memories would not allow these experiences to be lost. One’s experience of God is an emotional one, of the spirit – not a physical, analytical one. The emotional experience can result in some reactive/irrational action eg in this case the disciples hurrying back to Jerusalem despite the dangers of being on the road after dark.
How to offer hospitality in todays’ setting? With strangers a public place is preferable(safer) eg café, or as a group in a hired hall or marquee. An ‘open’ home has some risks – burglary, invasion of private space, physical safety, embarrassment of personal ‘mess’. The upside is that visitors to a home will get to know more about you via memorabilia, photos, books, the music you enjoy etc. We need to try to be more creative in welcoming strangers especially those who come to church and by being more conscious about keeping in contact with people eg a phone call.