Hospitality is Good News! A wise person once pointed out that as you extend your table to others that this is what God has done for us. While we were strangers, Christ set the table and invited us in to eat with him. He sets a table for us, even in the presence of our enemies.
I thought of this last week at a community meeting I attended. The meeting started with gathering, a wonderful BBQ (home made burgers, smokies and even veggie burgers for those who appreciate such things) and all the fixings which included home made pickles and other delicious additions, drinks and cookies. The conversation over the food was joyful, teasing, interesting and set the mood for the work we needed to do. When we did get down to work, this group was solution oriented and looked forward to getting more done at our next meetings.
This experience made me think about why Alpha has been such a successful tool, across the globe, in bringing people to Jesus. Eating together, even just sharing life and laughter together is such a missing piece in many lives that when we have the chance to get together with friends or acquaintances for 10 meals, our lives are forever entwined and we feel loved, listened to and we have the opportunity to care. No matter what the topic, hospitality is God’s gift to us.
Jesus even seemed to increase the value of hospitality when he told this story:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
There is a reward for showing hospitality. You don’t need to be a great evangelist or prophet or teacher or administrator to get the reward reserved for the hospitable. You can’t get this by writing a cheque for someone else to do the work for you – you get to do it yourself.
Maybe you’ve wondered how you could possible be involved in the work of bringing people nearer to Jesus. Let me encourage you to explore hospitality. Open your life to those around you who feel pain, isolation, hunger, fear and you will find that Jesus is there. You’ll find and experience Jesus, because you’ll feed him, clothe him, comfort him, encourage him. Those you extend hospitality to will also meet Jesus as he feeds them, clothes them, comforts them and encourages them.
Let’s take Jesus outside our religious exercises (he’s there too, I hope) and find ways to encounter the risen Jesus who became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood.
Tell me, how have you received hospitality lately? How did it feel?