Tag Archives: Hospitality

Everyone Welcome (…or not)

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
Hebrews 13:2 (NIV)

When I was young, my parents continually told me and my siblings “Your friends are always welcome in our house.” They meant it. I can remember nights when entire groups of my brothers’ friends would show up. My brothers weren’t home, but their friends would sit around the living room with my parents for long chats. As the youngest sibling, I observed the warmth of my parents hospitality and the effect on those high schoolers.

As I got older, I never hesitated to offer to have an impromptu social at our house with entire throngs of my friends. Wendy has convinced me, in retrospect, that it would have been more respectful if I had actually called my parents to ask permission or to give them a little warning. My parents, nevertheless, always laughed and rolled with it. I even told college friends to call my parents if they needed a place to crash on their drive home to the west coast. That happened, and my parents still enjoy telling the story.

I endeavored to have the same hospitality that I witnessed in my parents. I want our home to be a place of welcome, warmth, conversation, and love. I never want visitors to feel like a burden.

Along my life journey I’ve come to realize that hospitality is not a strong suit of my culture. I’ve attended predominantly black churches and received warm welcome that I knew would not be equally reciprocated if they came to my church on Sunday. I grieve this truth.

When I travelled in the middle east I regularly encountered the unbelievable hospitality of Muslims whom I expected to treat me like an enemy. Our daughters have experienced the same in their travels and missions overseas. I will never forget our daughter’s observation that the most Christ-like people she’d encountered were not her missions team, but a Muslim shopkeeper and his wife who invited her to dinner. Once again, we know in our hearts that our foreign hosts would likely not receive an equally hospitable welcome in our community. I grieve this truth.

This morning I’m thinking about my own posture towards hospitality. It’s easy to be hospitable to people of my choosing, with whom I am comfortable. I am reminded of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. In Jesus’ estimation, the one who truly loved his neighbor was the one who showed sacrificial hospitality to a perfect stranger in need who didn’t look like him, come from the same community as him, or believe the same things. I confess this morning that if you measure my hospitality by Jesus’ definition, I am found wanting.

Lord, have mercy on me.

I have some work to do.

A Table Prepared for All

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
    a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
    the best of meats and the finest of wines.
Isaiah 25:26 (NIV)

I love a great dinner party. We have become such a fast food, quick serve, grab-a-snack culture that it’s rare to really enjoy a feast any more. I had a friend tell me that she and her family finished Thanksgiving dinner in 10 minutes. There’s something wrong with this picture.

A great dinner party starts early with a drink and an appetizer. People mingle. There’s light conversation. Guests begin to unwind. It moves on to a table that’s prepared. Things are laid out. Everything you need for the evening is set before you. The plates, knives, forks, spoons, and glassware are a road map to the feast. There is salad and/or soup before the main course. The main course follows after and is perfectly proportioned with complementary dishes. There is an aperitif to cleanse the palate before moving on to dessert. And, there are wines served to compliment each course. By the time dessert is served you have been on a journey. A feast is to be savored, en-joy-ed along with the company and conversation around the table.

I love that God’s word picture of what’s-to-come is a feast. It’s the word picture He gave Abraham when first introducing Himself in Genesis 18. It’s the word picture Jesus gives in Revelation of the relationship He desires with every one. A dinner party. A leisurely meal with good food and good fellowship around the table.

I am struck this morning that Isaiah’s prophetic feast is for all people. So often the image of God we project to the world is that of a miserly monarch condemning the many to save the exclusive few. But Isaiah’s prophetic image is a feast of salvation for all people and all nations. When Jesus picked up and riffed on this word picture in his parable of the wedding feast he speaks of inviting those who you’d least expect to have a seat at the table, the master’s servants grabbing anyone and everyone off the street and ushering them to the table.

This morning I’m thinking about dinner parties, feasts, and a God who desires the communal oneness that is experienced with good food, good wine, and good relationship around a table well prepared.

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“Iowa Nice”

They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him.
Titus 1:16a

There is this thing we call “Iowa Nice.” It’s an attitude, really. There are no classes that teach it, and no strict definition. It’s a generalization that comes through the generations. It comes up out of the soil and permeates our being, though it’s not universal. While there are always a few bad corn kernels in every bushel, the people of Iowa are pretty hospitable folk. We’re happy to help if you need it. We are kind and accommodating, even to strangers. We’re just…well…nice.

I thought about Iowa nice this morning as I read Paul’s letter to Titus. Paul had left Titus on the island of Crete to organize the various groups of Jesus followers into some semblance of organization. Titus’ job was to appoint “Overseers” (think Pastor) who would “manage the household” of believers and “Elders” who were spiritually mature leaders. Paul provides qualifications, but then acknowledges Titus’ challenge to find such individuals among the Cretans.

The people of Crete did not have a great reputation. In contrast to “Iowa Nice,” Paul quotes a Cretan prophet who claims: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” Yikes. Titus is to find, among this group, those who are hospitable, self-controlled, and upright. You can almost hear Paul’s subtext: “Good luck with that.” Among Paul’s disparaging descriptive remarks about many of the Cretans is the fact that they “claim to know God, but by their actions deny them.”

What a great reminder this morning as I head into the week of our local Tulip Time festival here in Pella. I am not perfect, to be sure, but I would hope that I my actions will always bear witness to the faith that I claim – not deny it. I and my fellow residents will spend three entire days this week playing host to thousands of visitors and treating them to a generous dose of “Iowa Nice.” My desire is that my hospitality will always be a reflection of Jesus, who exemplified hospitality when He welcomed this stranger into His family.

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The Lost Art of Hospitality

Welcome mat
(Photo credit: Lynn Kelley Author)

Chapter-a-Day Genesis 19

Then [Lot] welcomed them and bowed with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “come to my home to wash your feet, and be my guests for the night. You may then get up early in the morning and be on your way again.” Genesis  19:1b-2a (NLT)

As I started reading the chapter this morning I was struck by Lot’s hospitality, which parallel’s Abraham’s hospitality from the previous chapter:

My lord,” [Abraham] said, “if it pleases you, stop here for a while. Rest in the shade of this tree while water is brought to wash your feet. And since you’ve honored your servant with this visit, let me prepare some food to refresh you before you continue on your journey.”

About ten years ago I spent a short period of time in Israel and was struck by the tradition of hospitality that is shown by the cultures there. When I read about the way Abraham and Lot welcomed and honored their guests, it feels very much the same as the way I was treated by complete strangers in some of my travels. Taylor and Clayton reported similar experiences from their travels in Morocco and Uganda. Hospitality towards strangers and guests is a time-honored tradition.

As I look back over my lifetime and observe some of the drastic changes I’ve witnessed in our own culture, the loss of hospitality is one of them. I’m still proud of “midwest nice” that you’ll still find in our small town here in Iowa, yet when I remember the way my grandparents regularly welcomed visitors into their home I am struck at how different it was. The coffee pot was always on in the morning and the tea kettle in the afternoon. There were always treats ready for guests, and there were always guests.

Even in my childhood and youth the welcome sign was always out at our home. My parents used to say to us “your friends are always welcome here,” and they were. Friends would stop by for a visit even if we kids weren’t home. They knew my mom would feed them and they would be treated like honored guests.

Perhaps what I experienced was the exception not the rule, but I don’t think so. I tend to think that we shut ourselves in our warm homes in the winter and our air conditioned homes in the summer. We lock the door and socialize with others in front of a computer screen. Meanwhile, the art and tradition of hospitality – of welcoming one into your home and caring for them with honor and grace – has been slowly lost despite the fact that God’s Message hearkens to the previous two chapters we’ve read and calls us to perpetuate the very practice:

Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Hebrews 13:2 (NLT)

I have tried to perpetuate the spirit of hospitality in our own home, though when I think back to the experiences of my childhood I realize that I haven’t always been as fine a host as the examples I was given. It’s a good reminder for me today.

If you’re in the area, stop on by. I’ll start a pot of coffee and the tea kettle will be boiling.

Chapter-a-Day Hebrews 13

image via Flickr

Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Hebrews 13:2 (NLT)

While I was in college I took a semester off from school to stay home, work and make a little money. One Sunday I attended a small church in the inner city. I was one of the only white people in the area, let a lone the church. I felt like a grain of salt in a pepper shaker. Yet, as I entered the church I felt a warmth and a love surrounding me.

A woman in the pew behind me leaned up, placed her hand on my shoulder and welcomed me and told me she was so glad I was there. When the congregation stood to pray, another elderly woman who was sitting down the pew from me walked over and took my hand in hers as we prayed. I was hugged and welcomed and loved.

I left church that morning humbled. I knew that if any of those sweet brothers and sisters in Christ had come to my home church that morning, they would not have received anything close to the warm, loving welcome I had received from them.

My eyes were opened that morning and I found myself repenting of my own sinful prejudices, stereotypes, and ignorance. Most of all, I repented for having such a meager and misery heart that always loved those of my choosing on my terms of comfort and propriety.

Some experiences become an important waypoint in our journey; a demarkation point when our path makes a distinct change in course. Since that morning, I have forever paid more attention to strangers walking into my midst and sought to show love the way it was shown to me in a small inner city church many years ago.

 

Chapter-a-Day 2 Chronicles 9

King Solomon, for his part, gave the queen of Sheba all her heart’s desire—everything she asked for. She took away more than she brought. Satisfied, she returned home with her train of servants. 2 Chronicles 9:12 (MSG)

Wendy and I enjoy entertaining. When we embarked on our project to take over my parents place at the Ozarks and build a new Playhouse there, we were motivated by the desire to have a place we could share life with family and friends.

When I read the verse above this morning, I thought what a great guiding principle it is anytime we entertain or welcome guests into our home. I want people to take away more than they brought. Obviously, in Solomon’s case, he showered physical gifts and blessing on the Queen of Sheba. The gifts don’t necessarily have to be material.

When people come for dinner, or visit the Playhouse, I hope that they walk away with their hearts more full than when they walked through the door.