Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Open Your Table

"It is no accident that hospitality and hospital come from the same Latin word, for they both lead to the same result: healing. When you open your door to someone, you are sending this message: "You matter to me and to God." You may think you are saying, "Come over for a visit." But what your guest hears is, "I'm worth the effort."

Do you know people who need this message? Singles who eat alone? Young couples who are far from home? Coworkers who've been transferred, teens who feel left out, and seniors who no longer drive? Some people pass an entire day with not meaningful contact with anyone else. Your hospitality can be their hospital. All you need are a few basic practices.

Issue a genuine invitation. Let your guests know you want them to come. Call them on the phone, or step over to their desks at work. Are they neighbors? Knock on their doors and say, "We'd love for you to join us at our dinner table tonight. Please come." People weather so many daily rejections. The doctor can't see them. The kinds didn't call. The airplane is booked. But then you invite them over. We have room for you! Life altering.

Make a big deal of their arrival. Gather the entire family at the front door. Swing it open as you se them approach. If you have a driveway, meet them on it. If your apartment has a lobby, be waiting for them. This is a parade-worthy moment. One of God's children is coming to your house!

Address the needs of your guests. First -century hospitality included foot washing. Modern-day hospitality includes the sharing of food and drink. Time to talk and listen. No televisions blaring in the background. No invasive music. Make sure everyone has the opportunity to speak. Go around the table and share favorite moments of the day or memories of hte week. Like the Good Shepherd, we prepare a table and restore the soul.

Send them out with a blessing. Make it clear you are glad your guests came. Offer a prayer for their safety and a word or encouragement for their travel.

The event need not be elaborate to be significant. Don't listen to the Martha Steward voice, the voice that says everything must be perfect. The house must be perfect. The china must be perfect. Meal. Kids. Husband. Everything must be perfect. Scented guest towels, warm appetizers, after-dinner mints.

If we wait until everything is perfect, we'll never issue an invitation. Remember this: what is common to you is a banquet to someone else. You think your house is small, but to the lonely heart, it is a castle. You think the living room is a mess, but to the person whose life is a mess, your house is a sanctuary. You think the meal is simiple, but to those who eat alone every night, pork and beans on paper plates tastes like filet mignon. What is small to you is huge to them.

Open your Table.

Even more, open your circle. Be certain to invite not just the affluent and successful, "but when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed" (Luke 14:13-14 NIV).

The Greek word for hospitality compounds two terms: love and stranger. The word literally means to love a stranger. All of us can welcome a guest we know and love. But can we welcome a stranger? Every morning in America more than 39 million people wake up in poverty. In 2008, 17 million households had difficulty providing food for their families. An estimated 1.1 million children lived in households experiencing hunger multiple times throughout the year. And this is in America, the wealthiest nation in the history of the world.

When we provide food stamps, we stave off hunger. But when we invite the hungry to our tables, we address the deeper issues of value and self-worth. Who would have though? god's secret weapons in the war on poverty include you kitchen table and mine."

Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado, Pages 56-59

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