Thursday, December 13, 2012

Phone Rings, Part II

8 p.m. Saturday evening. Phone rings.

"Jenn, can you have a family of four to your house for lunch tomorrow?"

I open the freezer door to see what I have on hand. I'm stalling for time. I already know what my answer will be.

"Sure. No problem. Happy to do it."

We are learning the true meaning of the word "hospitality."


noun, plural hos·pi·tal·i·ties.
the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers.
the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.

We have a lot visitors to our small church in Loches. Because we work with a well-respected, visionary leader who has a philosophy of ministry that is working in France, many pastors, missionaries, evangelists, and potential church planters want to come and see what he is doing. In order to really grasp what is going on here, these people often stay for several days and live in community with us. "Living in community" is harder to explain than one might think, even though it is the call of every believer! We pray together daily, we serve our neighbors and each other actively, and we do life together! We we do not simply "have" church, we "ARE" the church in Loches.

And so when people come to experience this dynamic, they are not sent to the local hotel and given the name of a few good restaurants; they stay in our homes and they eat at our tables. We extend true hospitality so that our guests are absorbed into our community and they get a sense of what it means to BE the church.

Hospitality does not demand that I open up my Martha Stewart books to see how impressively I can fold a napkin, but it does demand an effort! True hospitality is an attitude of the heart. An attitude that says, "I want you to know that you are valued and loved. I want you to be served in a way that acknowledges that you are child of God. I want you to feel safe and cared-for." Hospitality has nothing to do with "showing off," but everything to do with  honoring others--which means extending ourselves, being generous with what we have, and serving others.

Hospitality is an opportunity to die to self! When I open my home, I set aside my agenda and yield to someone else's. I sacrifice my comfort for the comfort of others. I share all that I have and all that I am, even if I'd rather not. And I do this NOT just for beloved friends and family. I do it for total strangers.

I Peter 4:9 says, "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling."

This verse leads me to believe that the concept of "hospitality" is not what our modern minds make of it. We think that if we have a dinner party and invite six of our dearest friends we are being "hospitable." Yes, that is a form of hospitality. But in Peter's time, the more common occurrence was having a weary, hungry, dirty, penniless stranger arrive at your door RIGHT after you had finished feeding your family and had washed all the dishes. Peter is saying, "In that moment--that unplanned, un-budgeted, unpleasant moment, show hospitality without grumbling."

The modern equivalent? Perhaps out of town relatives, annoying neighbor kids, or new-comers to church. When was the last time you invited a veritable stranger to dinner? Who might you be able to invite? Would you open your home over the holidays to an elderly neighbor? Some single guys from your church? A needy family? Will you choose, this holiday season, to practice hospitality?
Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Romans 12:12

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