Monday, August 31, 2009
What usually comes you mind when you hear the word hospitality? In modern times we associate hospitality with etiquette and entertainment. Many years ago after a visit to Williamsburg, I began collecting pineapples. The exotic fruit was the centerpiece for the finest of meals in Colonial homes and became the symbol of hospitality and friendship. Colonial hostesses sought to outdo each other with elaborate displays of the sweet treat with expensive pineapple-topped food displays. I guess we could say they were practicing “radical hospitality.”
The image of a pineapple came to express affection and warmth throughout the colonies. Today the pineapple continues to be an international symbol of hospitality. Christian hospitality though is not about setting the perfect “Dolly Madison” table or creating a Southern Living décor. It’s about meeting needs and showing the love of Christ to fellow Christians and strangers.
In the New Testament period, hospitality was a practical issue because traveling believers relied on other believers for lodging. One of the Greek words for hospitality is philoxenio, combines phileo (love) and xenos (stranger). I love one of the English translations, guest-friendship.
Isn’t guest-friendship what we should practice in our congregations? In his book Cultivating Fruitfulness, Robert Schasne says radical hospitality “means we offer the absolute utmost of ourselves, our creativity, and our abilities to offer the gracious invitation and welcome of Christ to others.”
Romans 12:13 encourages us all to practice hospitality.
Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Hebrews 13:2 reminds us not to neglect strangers.
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
Peter implies a sense of urgency when we show guest-friendship.
In The Message Bible translation, 1 Peter 4:8-10 says, “Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless – cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you.”
Jesus said, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me…Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:35)
What would happen if people took Jesus’ words seriously and offered radical hospitality in all our worship services and small group settings?
My son works as a server in a restaurant. He tells me that periodically a “secret shopper” visits to rate their restaurant. One trait they look for is the treatment of the customer. Sounds a lot like guest-friendship to me. What would “secret visitors” find if they visited our churches looking for radical hospitality?
Maybe we should find a way to use the pineapple motif as a visible reminder to extend radical hospitality to all who enter our church doors.
Let’s welcome others to worship as if our life depended on it!