Exercising the Hospitality Muscle Memory

As a little girl it took me forever to say, "I'm sorry."  Always have and always will have a strong spirit.  It is not easily budged for the "just because," answer. 

I've learned by working my memory "forgiving" muscles over the years the easier it is for me to vocalize an "I'm sorry."  It's like anything in life.  When I first learned how to roast a chicken I read the instructions thoroughly, had my ingredients mise en place, seasoned the bird, set the timer, used the thermometer testing the thigh temperature, allowing it to rest to keep the juices in the chicken and carving it.  It has led to fantastic results to slightly dry birds; but, one thing is constant, the consistency of training the muscle memory.

Professional athletes, head surgeons, virtuoso musicians, well versed parents of 35 years all have this consistency of muscle memory in common.  They have put in the hours, the grueling times, seen mistakes, doubted their ability, and thrown their hands up in retreat like all of us; but, what sets them apart is continuing in the drudgery to build up the basics (ie muscle memory).  


I was reflecting upon this lovely picture our new friend Hosanna posted on Facebook.  It captures new friends we just met days prior, ones who we were fortunate to share life with, have our girls learn what it means to love the other, and what it means for me to stop making excuses for my cooking or my children's behavior.  This picture signifies pulling out fish and loaves, blessing it and hoping God makes it stretch.  It represents all of me pouring myself out is never enough, for I am weak and weary, easily discouraged.  

Still, it gives me such hope to keep at this thing called hospitality, even when my children act more like wild animals than little girls with their behavior and manners.  It gives me hope, because working my muscle memory to keep at it reminds me how much I rely upon my Jesus to love through me.  It reminds me how we are all broken people desperately looking for other broken people to share a meal so we can rest in our humanness.  More so, we can rest in a Saviour who was God with skin on.  He came to rub shoulders, to understand the desperation in our voices, our eyes to give us hope.  

I can't think of a better reflection of why I want to keep exercising the hospitality muscle memory in me.  If it means I get to bring the hope of Jesus to my own brokenness and all who gather with me, I consider the work worth it.  

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Fellowship Around the Table


At the close of the sermon today we were invited to quickly rewrite our version of Acts 2:42-47.  Here was mine.

You mama teach your babes how to use words,

how to say sorry when you shouted.  

The Spirit of God comes while messy floors, tear stained cheeks turn to you and forgiveness is known. 


You invite people to gather, to share meals.

nothing worthy of food blogs; rather, a King's feast of a casserole.

Because knowing it's in the giving, the sharing, the showing up, the inviting into your mess so the other feels normal.


You give not out of obligation or duty, but...

because Jesus the great Host first set His Table Inviting you as a guest. 

So what's yours is mine & mine is yours.

You see Jesus in the cranky co-worker to the bully child, it's why we meet together.

Because we know the hope of the final feast,

the garden turned city--

the place where no more tears spill; but...

Jesus our Lord, our Savior, our great papa God redeems the story, our story. 


How the Hellenistic World & Present Day View the Table

Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.

These words were spoken in a time when the Jewish people were heavily influenced by the Hellenistic culture, which based a lot of importance on hierarchy and stratification within society.  The way the table was set up in that day revolved around the most important to the least important.  Those who could give to those who could not.   

Ben Witherington III in Making a Meal of It mentions how food categories encoded social events through degrees of hierarchy:  

  1. Inclusion
  2. Exclusion
  3. Boundaries
  4. Transactions across boundaries  


So what is Jesus saying? 

He rejects the idea of using meals to reinforce reciprocity cycles and suggests meals be more gracious and less self-serving.  Imagine how counter-culture he was in challenging the very idea of what is considered to be 'table fare.'  

I myself was challenged with this concept; because, what would Jesus say to me, to us?  How in our cultural context do we as Christians replicate the cultural norms of hospitality and bread breaking?  

How do we speak into a culture, not tear it down, but be kingdom driven instead?  How do we mirror after the King's Lovefeast?  How do we take what is good while leaving out that which is ostracizing?  

I believe we live in a day and age, where sustainability is good and valued.  How if you can talk the foodie talk, know that lingo, then clearly you are on the "A" list.  We can watch food competitions and see how food has clearly become something of an other thing.  Good food is more about elitism than together.  We are more worried about impressing our dinner guests with perfection than allowing vulnerability to let loose there. 

Jesus is more concerned that walls and boundaries are being set up.  He speaks time and again against human societal constraints, which inhibit someone seeking the Kingdom of God.  In fact, it's what enrages him at the temple.  

What if instead, we always set our table as those the Lord himself were coming?  What if that's what sharing the table looked like?  And then, when we say, "But Lord, when did I feed you?"  He responds, "When you fed that child who hasn't known nourishment in food and heart."  "When you took some of you grocery money to give it to that family who needed to eat."   "When you invited your neighbor over for dinner."

We live in such a time as this, where food is more than plentiful and people are literally & figuratively starving.  Why would we neglect in sharing our tables?  Why do I neglect in sharing my table?   

I leave you with this, 

May the blessing of God rest upon you,  
May his peace abide with you, 
May his presence illuminate your heart
Now and forevermore. 

--Sufi blessing (seventh century) 


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