It was a joy to celebrate Easter together and tell once again the story of the resurrection of Jesus.
It was a joy to gather with old friends and new, to greet relatives from afar, and to once again put our best face forward on this very important day in our church worship calendar. Thank-you to all who extended themselves in service and hospitality -- for the choir, our music director, our pianist, the ushers, our childcare worker, all who cleaned the church & grounds beforehand, the youth group for stuffing eggs for the Easter egg hunt, those who prepared and cleaned up the coffee & treats after the service, and … the list is long!
But it was a joy, wasn’t it? Hospitality is like that. When we greet the stranger, welcome the visitor, serve a meal for family and friends – we often receive far more than we give. I went home from Easter Sunday tired but also very grateful to be serving God and neighbor in a church like ours.
One of the time-honored practices of the Christian faith is hospitality. The early Christian hermits and monastics knew that their decision to withdraw from the world engendered a certain curiosity from those who stayed behind. Visitors would arrive at the hermit’s desert home and ask for prayers, for guidance. And what did the hermit do? He or she received them “as one would receive Christ himself.” Was it easy for them? No. But it was what they were called to do by their understanding of the gospel message that “whatever you do to the least of these, you do also to me (Jesus).”
My brother and sister-in-law took a trip a few years ago to New Mexico. In the town of Los Alamos they visited the local Starbucks and were looking for a place to have dinner. They started a conversation with another couple in the café, and before long that couple had invited them to their home for dinner. At the end of a pleasant evening, both couples confessed that “they never did anything like this before.”
What is hospitality? How do we practice it? In the book, “Radical Hospitality,” Fr. Daniel Homan and Lonnie Pratt describe their own ministry of hospitality to the youth and young adults who visit St. Benedict Abbey in Oxford Michigan. They remind us that hospitality is not just a shared meal. It begins with an attitude that conveys openness and warmth. It does not mean becoming a doormat for others, but being available for deep listening and support if the other person requests it. It may require getting past our fear that people who are somehow different from us are not trustworthy. It may mean risking a little of ourselves, or our personal space. It may mean reordering our priorities and commitments.
The key to the practice of hospitality is listening. Near the end of the book (p. 203) Homan and Pratt write, “[But] hospitality is not a planned event, or a series of routine gestures. It is the stance of the heart that is abandoned to Love.” And.. (p. 216) “There is so much in life that is potentially dehumanizing. Listening is the most hospitable thing we can do, and if we do no other thing than train ourselves to listen to others, we will have taken great steps in hospitality.”
There is prayerfulness in offering hospitality to someone as if they were Christ. There is prayerfulness in listening to someone as if they were Christ. It is my hope that during the month of May we might listen more carefully to those around us. Who are they? How may they indeed be Christ to us?
In Christ’s love,