Some of the clergy of the Diocese in Europe are sending their theological reflections on last month's clergy conference in Cologne to the bishops, as they continue to digest the content and theme of the event, "Entertaining Angels: Hospitality as Mission".
Here are some thoughts contributed by the Revd Philip Mounstephen, the chaplain of St Michael's Paris:
God’s act of incarnation is an act of embodiment¸ and an act of unconditional hospitality to us: he has held nothing back. I suggest four possible implications which seem to me to be direct developments of this.
- God reveals his embodied beauty to us in Jesus Christ. Reflecting on what Fr Timothy Radcliffe said, we need to ask how we embody his beauty. Specifically how can we make our worship illuminating, beautiful and truly mysterious rather than simply mystifying.
- The Word has become embodied: ‘the eternal Word speaks only dialect’ – so there must be implications for us in terms of language: both the register we use (as Bp Geoffrey suggested) and indeed which tongue(s) we use. ‘Come to us as long as you speak our language,’ sounds very much like conditional hospitality.
- The Word is embodied in Jesus Christ. Brian Thorne reminded us that ‘the body is not a commodity but a temple of flesh and blood where a person resides. And the Church is to be a body where Jesus Christ resides as host and guest. Bp David suggested 'we must turn as a body to the world in love and sacrifice’ - and we have to do that because that is what the life of Jesus in us calls us to do. Recognising the Church as the Body of Christ seems to me to be the fundamental prerequisite of offering genuine Christian hospitality – because without that it won’t be the hospitality of Jesus that experience through us. All hospitality is good but genuine Christian hospitality ought to be of a different order because the Church is the Body of Christ.
- God’s act of embodiment is an act of hospitality and of embassy – and each is the counterpoint to the other, not to be set in contradistinction. Mission is a matter of both. Both are to be embodied in us as they are in Jesus Christ. Both are an expression of his compassion (a key conference word), and his compassion should move us to compassion in hospitality and embassy.