Beth A. Richardson
I go to a local church that practices hospitality. We welcome the stranger and open our doors to those who might not usually walk into mainline churches.
There’s a tradition we share in our weekly ritual of Holy Communion. We gather, holding hands, in a big circle around the room. A table in the center of the room holds the bread and the cup of juice. Before the prayer of consecration, the pastor says something like this, “Christ invites you to this table. This table doesn’t belong to me. It doesn’t belong to our congregation or to this denomination. This is the table where Christ is the host. And everyone has a place at this table.” And we all repeat, “Everyone has a place at this table.”
Around the circle I see people of all ages, races, income levels, physical abilities. I see single people and couples — both LGBTQ and straight. I see people from different countries and people with different political perspectives. When I look around the circle, I think of the banquet that Jesus talks about in Luke 14:12: “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your relatives or rich neighbors. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” (Luke 14:12-13, NRSV).
The spiritual practice of hospitality takes us out of our comfort zone. My guest lists usually include only people like me. What would it be like to include “the stranger, the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” of today? What might you be called to do that will push you just a little bit closer to Christ’s ministry of hospitality?
Someone once told me that when we arrive at that great heavenly banquet where Christ is the host, we may be surprised by who we see there. We may think, “Oh, MY GOSH! I didn’t know that [fill in the blank here] would be invited!” Who is it that you will be surprised to see? Liberals? Conservatives? People from a different religion? People from a different race? LGBTQ people? The boss who fired you? The mother who abused you? The neighbor who ignored you?
Participating in radical hospitality means that we get a head start on that heavenly banquet. We bring the banquet here to earth, declaring that at the table where Christ is the host, “Everyone has a place at this table.”
Close your eyes. Breathe in and out. Take three long, slow breaths.
Hearing a knock on the door of your house, see yourself going quickly to answer it and, without hesitating, opening the door and inviting whoever or whatever is there to come in. Who is your guest? What is your guest doing and saying? Sense and feel how you are welcoming to your guest, even if he or she is not expected or acceptable to you.
Breathe in and out. Take three long, slow breaths.
See yourself sitting at your dinner table with all the seats being filled by strangers -- people and other beings. Eating your meal, know that you are entertaining angels. What happens and how do you feel?
When you are ready, open your eyes.
Beth A. Richardson serves as the director of prayer and Upper Room worship life.
Adapted from Alive Now, May/June 2014. Copyright © 2014 The Upper Room.