A Reading from “Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers,” by Eugene Peterson (Eerdmans, 2008)
It was 1982, the fourth day of our first trip to Israel. After our El Al flight landed at Lod, we took a bus to Haifa and spent a couple of days on Mount Carmel exploring Elijah country. Then we took a bus to the kibbutz Nof Ginnosar on the shores of Lake Galilee, where we planned to spend a week walking through the towns, hills, and fields of Galilee. We took a day to settle in and made plans for Nazareth. We arrived by bus early the next morning.
We spent the day in Nazareth looking for Jesus. We walked up and down the narrow streets, took in the market fragrances, entered the tiny synagogue. We saw him everywhere: Jesus, eight years old, kicking a soccer ball in the street; the three-month-old Jesus on a bench near a well, nursing at his mother’s breast; children in a courtyard yard celebrating the birthday of Jesus at six years of age, sitting on a makeshift throne with a crown on his head, the friends dancing around him, singing and throwing confetti.
It was a good day, full of sights and smells that filled our imaginations tions with details that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John had forgotten to give us. We waited on a bench for the bus back to the kibbutz. After a half hour or so, a taxi driver who had been cruising back and forth all the time we were there pulled over and asked us where we were going. We told him. He said he would take us. We declined, told him we would wait for the bus. We were on a tight budget. A taxi seemed like an unaffordable luxury. But when we had sat there for over an hour, the prospect of a bus steadily declining, the taxi driver pulled up again with his offer and we took it.
We had hoped to go the next day to the valley of Jezreel and some of the archeological sites in the area. I asked our driver how we could get there, where the bus routes went. He told me that he would take us -no buses went where we wanted to go. He presented the situation as hopeless, except for him. The price for the day seemed exorbitant, but we finally agreed. Conversation was amiable. His name was Sahil, a Palestinian born and raised in Nazareth. Another Jesus? He said he would pick us up at seven in the morning and would bring a picnic lunch for the three of us.
The next day, after strolling through the ruins of Bethshan, I wanted to find Shiloh, a little more than twenty-five miles further south. Sahil had never heard of it, but it would certainly be well marked and I thought we could find it. It wasn’t well marked and we never did find it. And then it was time for the picnic lunch that Sahil brought. We pulled off into an open field and spread the lunch of cucumbers, tomatoes, toes, and pita bread on the ground. A Bedouin leading a camel on a rope came by. He asked us for some food. Sahil without hesitation gave him well over half of what we had there on the ground. The man went on his way with his free and very generous lunch. I asked Sahil why he had given it to him, no questions asked -and so much!
“Muhammad commands it. A man is hungry, you feed him.”
“And that’s it?”
That was our introduction to Middle Eastern hospitality.
When was the last time you hosted a dinner with guests? How would you describe your hospitality? What is required to be a hospitable host?