Radical Hospitality

One of the stated values of our congregation is Radical Hospitality.  Hospitality is a habit, a practice, that is woven throughout the biblical story. From Abraham’s gracious reception of three guests at Mamre (Genesis 18), to Joseph’s welcoming his brothers – and all who came – in time of famine (Genesis 41:57); from the open table fellowship of Jesus to the sharing of all things in common of the early church (Acts 2) hospitality of a radical sort is practiced.

In the Abraham story, when three people show up at his tents (who turn out to be messengers of God), Abraham does not simply offer a bit of bread and some water; a bit of shade for protection from the sun. He drops everything and prepares a meal from the best of his flock. He waits on them personally. Jesus not only welcomes everyone to his table but leaves them with a piece of himself as he teaches, heals, and announces the reign of God.

This radical hospitality is an act of faith, a practice of discipleship, because it mimics divine grace. God, in spite of our stubbornness and resistance, welcomes us into the life of the Holy Trinity and lavishes abundance upon us each day, if we have eyes that will see. That is radical hospitality.

Last Sunday, as I walked into the Café Koinonia after worship, a large, lively, crowd was gathered. There was laughter; kids were running to grab one more donut; friends supporting friends – the very things that warm a pastor’s heart. Then I felt a chill. I saw a couple I did not recognize sitting at a table alone. I was pretty sure they were guests and no one in the room had noticed. I began to move toward them and scanned the room for someone who could welcome them besides the pastor (because being greeted by a guy who gets paid to do it is not radical). Just then, a couple who had lots of other friends in the room spied the guests and made a beeline for them. Greetings and introductions ensued and divine love – radical hospitality – made an appearance.

I share this because Pastor Pam and I have noticed this scenario too frequently lately. Guests, or people who don’t know lots of folks sitting alone.  No one should be alone in this place. I know that on Sunday everyone wants to connect with friends and catch up on the latest news. I also know that as everyone left worship and took the first ten minutes of coffee and donuts to connect with someone they didn’t know, our congregation would be stronger; we would be better at our mission of sharing God’s love; we would be practicing radical hospitality.

Radical hospitality reflects how much room there is in the heart of God for everyone, no matter how distant or broken. Practicing radical hospitality trains us to open a bit of our hearts to brothers and sisters who bear God’s love. Who will tell people that they are God’s beloved? For Abraham, it was three strangers. For the folks sitting alone in the Café, it could be you.

Pax Christi, Pastor Tim Olson

copyright 2019 Holy Trinity Lutheran Church