I have been reflecting on Dr. Avram’s most recent sermon on hospitality given this past Sunday (if you missed it you can listen to it HERE). Hospitality is a difficult thing. It is held in a paradox between the ordinary activities of serving a meal to the complexities of mysterious and fragile relationships. Hospitality requires crossing boundaries, seeing from another person’s perspective, and the gift of time. This type of ministry and lifestyle requires making room in our schedules, our lives, and our homes. Sometimes when it is planned and other time when it is completely unexpected.
Hospitality doesn’t just happen in one place. In fact, if you let it, it begins to permeate every area of our lives. It happens in the grocery store, at school and work, in the airport, on mission trips and at home. Hospitality isn’t cookie cutter either, we are hospitable in times of need and in times of plenty. I want to tell you about a few places that I have seen hospitality recently.
It doesn’t just happen when you have folks over for dinner. It happens at the soup kitchen. Our local soup kitchen is called Andre House and it is an amazing ministry of hospitality and community. We serve three times a month, with teams gathering in the kitchen to chop, stir, prepare and finally serve those who are less fortunate that we are. The hospitality begins with the team cooking as we share our lives together over fruit, veggies and a cutting board. It isn’t hard work, instead it is about seeing people and not just circumstances. There are a lot of interesting people who show up at Andre House. Many who live on streets, families who just can’t get by and people who are in their dress cloths searching for a job or working, but still can’t afford to feed themselves or their family on their wage. When we serve them, we look them in the eye and say, “welcome, come and find a seat at the table.”
Hospitality doesn’t just happen around food either, it occurs when you invite someone to join you in your pew at church. If you are like me, you have a habitual place in the pews where you sit. (I know many of you are like me because when I look out into the congregation on Sunday I see many sitting in “their pew.”) It is good to find your spot. It is good to have a holy place that is familiar in worship where you know your pew mates and enjoy catching up each week on each other’s lives. Hospitality asks us to invite new people into our holy place. To try out a new seat and meet other people. It is hard, but hospitality requires us to be flexible.
The other part of hospitality isn’t just about hosting hospitality but also receiving. This is one of the hardest parts of hospitality because often we want to be the givers and not receivers. Being the receivers calls us to a vulnerability that we don’t always want someone else to see. It calls us to not have control of the whole situation. That is difficult. Whenever we go on mission we become the receivers of hospitality. Whether it is on a disaster relief trip, in Haiti or on the Border, when people who have little invite us, who have much, into their homes. Serve us their best in well-worn kitchens, on cracked dishes and tables set with pride. We eat together, sometimes with food we have never had and are unsure about, sometimes not even being able to speak the same language—forks and knifes in our hands, laughing, talking with our hands and enjoying food made with abundant love. This is hospitality.
Interestingly one of the most difficult places to receive hospitality is when we are the ones who are in need of help. Whether it is a crisis that hits home and we need someone to bring in a meal for our family, when we lose a job and we need to ask for help, or when we have a bad day and we just need someone to listen and give us a hug. Somehow our culture has said that in these moments we have to be strong and pretend like we don’t need help. But we all need some help.
In the church, we are family and that means that at some moment in our lives we are going to be in all of these places. There are moments when we will be giving and there are moments when we will be receiving. That is hospitality. It happens every day. Enjoy it, try it and live into it! For more information about how you can provide hospitality at Pinnacle, visit us online at pinnaclepres.org/serve.