“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:1)”
My Doctor of Ministry thesis was all about hospitality. Together with my congregation I asked the question, “Who is missing from our church and how can we make them feel welcome?”
In this era of suspicion when fear and distrust are pervasive, hospitality urges us to open our hearts, our homes, and our spirits to God’s people, especially to those who might seem “other” or “different” than we are. “Truly I say to you,” Jesus reminds us, “as you did to one of the least of my brothers [or sisters], you did to me” (Matthew 25:40). Offering someone a safe haven or a seat on the bus or a place in our sanctuary can be life-changing.
My role models are courageous pioneers who have been on the forefront of radical hospitality. They have forged a path of welcome with their compassion for the plights of others. I am not sure I am as brave as those people who have stood up to tyranny, stared down injustice, and added their voices to the cry for freedom, but I am inspired by them.
I think about
- People who offered shelter along the Underground Railroad, who provided food, water and encouragement to escaping slaves.
- Suffragettes, who protested, went to jail and endured abuse so their sisters would be welcomed at the polls.
- Individuals and families who rejected the Nazi claim to “racial purity” and opened their homes and hearts to Jews trying to escape certain death.
- Freedom Riders – black and white – who rode into the segregated South to advance Civil Rights.
- Straight men and women who have joined their gay sisters and brothers to demand equal protection under the law.
Real hospitality – the realization that all of God’s children are loved and precious in God’s sight – demands that we continually widen our welcome and intentionally make room for everyone at the table. Hospitality creates space for every person and leaves enough silence so all voices can be heard.
On November 2nd I will lead a workshop at Hartford Seminary entitled, “Proactively welcoming the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Questioning) community into our congregations.” When I am there, I will be thankful for those who went before me and made this day possible. I will be thinking about people who were ridiculed, shouted at, reviled, imprisoned, and even killed because they were convinced that God loves all of God’s people. They lived a message of love, welcome, and hospitality.
I want to try to do the same.
Thoughts for Today:
Who will we welcome today?
Who will we encounter that needs to be reminded of their value and unique worth?
How will we live out God’s hospitality?