Hospitality was a big deal in biblical Israel. Abraham hurried to offer “three seahs of the finest flour” and a “choice, tender calf” to three men passing by his tent, even before learning that his guests were no mere humans (Genesis 18). The disciples on the road to Emmaus urged the resurrected Jesus to stay with them, learning his true identity only later (Luke 24). God’s commands to Israel to offer hospitality to foreigners can be found through the Old Testament, and hospitality was a key quality of church leaders commended to figures like Titus (Titus 1:8) and Timothy (1 Timothy 3:2).
There’s another side, of course, to hosting: being a guest. Being a good guest honours the way that your hosts have honoured you. Hospitality honours and reinforces relationships, and we know from passages throughout the Biblical text that reconciled relationships are important to God. We are to be “ambassadors of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5), to reconcile with our neighbour even before making an offering to God (Matthew 5:23-34), and “as much as it is possible for you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18), as just a few examples.
Hospitality honours and reinforces relationships, and we know from passages throughout the Biblical text that reconciled relationships are important to God.
The theme of being a guest is also found throughout Scripture:
- In Genesis 1 & 2 Adam and Eve are guests in the Garden — the Creator is their host and blesses them by providing all their needs. But Adam and Eve wanted more than the Host offered and ate fruit from the one tree that was not available to them. Failure to be good guests has consequences.
- Ruth the Moabitess follows her mother-in-law Naomi back to the land of Israel,where she became a guest. As she says to Naomi, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” As a guest who listened and received well, Ruth became an essential part of the line of David and Jesus Christ — Ruth was blessed and became a blessing.
- We become the guests of the Lord at the Lord’s Supper, where he offers his very self to us. We are commanded to reenact this meal regularly, to regularly “remember” Christ’s death and resurrection by becoming guests at his table.
When the first Europeans arrived on Turtle Island, what we know as North America, Indigenous people welcomed them and shared the good gifts of the land with the settlers. Those who “discovered” this part of the world never would have survived without them. Over time this sharing led to formal treaties. In 1613 the first formal treaty was signed near Albany, New York: the Tawagonshi treaty between the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois confederacy) and the Dutch. That treaty was one of mutual sharing and non-interference and was based on principles of covenant. This treaty of peace and friendship was also recognized by both parties as a sacred agreement between them, with Creator God as witness. Treaties of peace and friendship were a blueprint for settlers to be good guests here on Turtle Island. Sadly, over time, the guests began to ignore the covenants of peace and friendship, and started to take land using law and force — they became ungrateful guests. This is especially sad when we consider that these treaties were based on biblical ideas of covenants — often written and signed by Christian believers.
Treaties of peace and friendship were a blueprint for settlers to be good guests here on Turtle Island.
Those of us who are not Indigenous are guests in Canada. You may have heard territory acknowledgments before at the opening of a conference or event. They often sound something like this: “I acknowledge the fact that we are worshipping and living and moving on the traditional and unceded territory of the Anishinabeg Algonquin Peoples.” In acknowledging territory, we honour the relationship with Indigenous peoples, who lived on and stewarded these lands for thousands of years before European “discovery”.
Being a good guest is about understanding our role as a guest and showing appreciation. It is also about learning where we’ve gone wrong as guests. It’s about humbly listening to our hosts. It’s about recognizing that there is a relationship that has been broken, respect for original inhabitants that has been lacking, covenants of peace and friendship that have been broken ... and hope for reconciled relationships, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
What do the biblical calls to hospitality and reconciled relationships mean for your church’s relationships with local Indigenous peoples?
In this Canada 150 year, we invite pastors and churches to consider together what it means that this land we call Canada has been inhabited for far more than 150 years. What do the biblical calls to hospitality and reconciled relationships mean for your church’s relationships with local Indigenous peoples? How can you become better guests? How can you enter mutual relationships of respect with your Indigenous hosts? Could acknowledging territory in your worship service be a good next step for your church?
Take the Challenge!
Submit a recording (with a written outline) or a complete manuscript of a sermon you preached about reconciliation and being a guest to [email protected] by November 30. (Questions can be directed to that address as well.)
Sermon entries are expected to:
- allow the Scripture text to lead the message;
- explicitly address questions of justice and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and their relationship to biblical justice, especially including local examples;
- highlight the truth and hope of the good news of Jesus Christ; and
- have been preached, preferably at a CRC or RCA congregation.
The sermons will be shared on Do Justice as an example to other churches and pastors who may be inspired to follow your example.
You won't journey alone
Once you’ve submitted a sermon, I'll coach you in honouring and forming relationships with local Indigenous groups. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to reconciling broken relationships, so I'm happy to walk alongside you as an Indigenous Christian and CRC leader. I will especially work with you to connect with a local Indigenous elder--a key part of the reconciliation and territory acknowledgement journey.
Here are some places to start your learning:
- Native-land.ca (A good starting point to learn about which territory your church is on.)
- Visit your local friendship centre or Native healing centre and speak with Indigenous Elders about this subject
- An infographic to help you get started
- An example of territory acknowledgement from schools in Toronto, Ontario
- Going deeper into the systemic injustices faced by Indigenous peoples in Canada
- Have theological questions? We'd be happy pray and discern along with you, or connect you to others who are also working through these questions.