As I waved good-bye the last group of visitors, new folks were arriving on Friday. Yesterday, the senior pastor of a large church spoke to a staff gathering about the importance of being willing to have our homes open for visitors. In our society, as Christians, there are a vast variety of things attached to our “job description.” With the pressures of everyday life, almost out of necessity, the scriptural mandate to be “given to hospitality” becomes “other duties as assigned.”
Over the years, hospitality has been one of the delightful aspects of ministry for my husband and me. We enjoy sharing our home with others; and we are deliberate to open it to others. Sure, there are hazards. Things do go missing. My husband received many relics from outer space because of his employment with NASA. These ranged from slivers of rocks from the moon to pieces of the rope that tethered the astronaut who ventured from the vehicle on the first space walk. These were history-making events and keepsakes. We treasured them and proudly displayed them on our shelves in the living room.
One day we woke up to realize that almost all of these items had disappeared from our home along with a few other valuable pieces. The realization came soon after we discovered a teenager who was a chronic liar slipping one of keepsakes into his pocket. He, of course, put it back and he never returned to our home.
We learned to take appropriate precautions; but we also understand the logical risks involved in having many people coming into our home. Then as the years have passed, at-home hospitality evolved into a pleasant memory of the past for this and other households. Perhaps it is because more and more women have entered the marketplace for paying jobs. A quiet dinner with a couple of friends gathered around our dining room table isn’t as convenient as meeting a few folks at a local restaurant.
However, a few years ago, Special Gathering founder and executive director, Richard Stimson decided to revive the age-old tradition for his programs and suggested that we do the same. Special Gathering is a ministry within the special needs community. We minister to people who are intellectually disabled. Stimson’s plan was to invite two families into our home for dinner each week until all the families we serve had been asked to share a meal with us. He suggested a simple menu that would not hurt our budgets. I believe this venture may have been one of the most beneficial things we have ever done to garner favor and familiarity with our members and their families. Even though it’s been years since that initial time, our members still say to me, “Remember when we came to your house for dinner with my mom and dad.”
The scriptures are clear about the importance of the meal and the bonding that happens during the “breaking of bread.” It is no coincidence that one of the few ordinances that Christ left for us took place during a meal. More orthodox denominations call it “communion” or by the Greek term, Eucharist (which means “give thanks”). I was raised in the Christian tradition that called this meal, “The Lord’s Supper.” I love all these terms because each one speaks of the bonding that takes place over a meal in our homes.
With the demands of my husband’s care over the past two years, my life became more closed into my house. However, I’m looking forward to having more people to our home. It’s true that my schedule is not ordinary, and I’m sure each of you would say the same. Time is such a pressing and demanding commodity in almost all of our lives that it seems almost draconian to say that homes should be opened to other Christians or our neighbors. However, the scriptures haven’t changed. We may need to pray about how we can better implement this important Biblical guide into our lives.