What is so amazing about hospitality?
We hear a lot about hospitality, how this is an essential element of ministry in the church, especially at a time when there is so much divisiveness and fear of the stranger. For every positive story of inviting others in, we hear a negative, unsafe story. But do we actually have to allow unknown people into our home to be hospitable? I would suggest that there are many small ways in which we can become more welcoming to those we do not know, without having to risk our personal safety.
Read: Genesis 18: The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under the tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way – now that you have come to your servant.” “Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.” So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.” Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree. “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he said. Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”
“Consider Yourself” from Oliver! might not be the first thing you would think of for a Christian song about hospitality, but as you reflect back on the words, it becomes a very real reflection of what hospitality is in community. Consider yourself at home, we don’t want to make a fuss. Whatever we’ve got, we share. Taken out of the context of the play, the words can be a genuine offer to make someone comfortable in your space.
Question: How can I find opportunities to create a welcoming manner in what I do at church? At work? In the community? What does it feel like when someone offers hospitality to me?
Hospitality is different in various cultures and backgrounds. It was the expectation in Old Testament times that any strangers who were traveling at mealtime or at night would be invited for a meal or a bed. What is your personal experience with hospitality and family connections? How has it changed over the years?
Exercise: Last week I offered an opportunity to pause during the day and think about our bodies. This week, take the same exercise and see how it can help raise your awareness of hospitality moments. For example, when the wait person gives his/her name in a restaurant, offer yours in return. Ask the cashier at the store how the day is going. Try to pause a few times each day to see where those moments – and practicing hospitable actions only takes moments – might pop up in every day life.
Pray: EVER-LOVING GOD, who having loved us loves us still, help us to hear again your word, “By this shall they know you are my disciples; that you love one another.” Turn our hostility into hospitality and our callousness into care. Through Christ, we pray. Amen (from the website www.upperroom.org)