“Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” - Hebrews 13:1-2
A wonderful thing happened to Kathleen and I while we were on a lunch date, which in itself is a wonderful thing. Rarely do we get the chance to spend an hour together in the middle of the day.
It was one of those beautiful and crisp fall days. The sun was shining and the air was light. The wind seemed playful. And the newly fallen leaves were happy to join in the fun.
As we approached the Green Harp, a unique restaurant in Greenville, Michigan, I noticed the parking lot was nearly full. Inside, the restaurant was packed as well. All the booths were taken, and the only available seats were around the two giant tables in the middle.
Each table could seat eight, but we were only two. We had no other choice but to sit. Our romantic lunch felt more like the parable of the wedding party where the invited guest had refused to come (see Matthew 22:1-14).
Other couples followed behind us, each group facing the same dilemma. No seats, but the big table. And that’s when it happened; that wonderful thing called hospitality. In remembering the parable, Kathleen and I welcomed these hungry strangers to share the table with us. The seats began to fill up and the table seemed to magically come alive.
To be fair, it may not seem like a big deal for a minister and his wife to invite people to share their table with them; especially a guy who talks endlessly about welcoming strangers to the table of God’s blessing. But it was a big deal to those who were invited to sit.
Around our table we learned about one another. The first couple had recently lost their home to a fire. They had been living in a hotel and were in need of company and companionship. God gave it to them in the most unexpected way. The other couple was visiting their daughter who just moved to Greenville. It was their first time in the area and now they see our town as a kind and friendly place.
When I saw the one lone chair left at the table, I did not see emptiness but instead saw God in full glory. In the smiles and laughter, the conversation and storytelling, there was Jesus breaking bread with us and sharing in the joy of the Spirit that had fed him and cared for him through the difficult days of fasting in the wilderness.
The Benedictine Monks live by this idea of showing radical hospitality to others. The have a rule that states, "Hospitality is the way we come out of ourselves. It is the first step towards dismantling the barriers of the world. Hospitality is the way we turn a prejudiced world around, one heart at a time."
It all begins with an invitation. As you move in your lenten journey, as you struggle or sail smoothly along, remember to invite others to your spiritual pathway. You never know where God may lead you. Or what wisdom God might reveal. God doesn't tell us where we are going, but God has reveal what we are to do. Because you never know when you’re entertaining angels or Jesus himself.
Prayer: God you invited me to the table of your blessing so I could invite others to join me. Keep this Spirit close in my heart as I show divine hospitality in the name of Christ Jesus. Amen.
The dining room during dinner service at the Broad Street Hospitality Collaborative. Photo: Matt Stanley