Sharing Hospitality at Redeeming the Table

 

You'll notice the subtitle below the banner says, "sharing stories, hospitality & food with friend & stranger."  I spoke of the sharing stories/storytelling last week and promised to continue with the hospitality portion and food portion
But how does one tackle a topic so vast, so broad and a bit ambiguous as 'hospitality?'  Good question, as I tend to ask myself the same thing.  Rather, than write about the meaning, give you multiple texts to reference and give you a headache.  How about I share a story with you?

 

It was my freshman year in high school.  Looking on the outside you wouldn't be able to tell how broken my family was on the inside.  That is until one late fall day as I was walking home with a friend.  We would be walking to soccer practice shortly after getting a bite to eat and unwinding after a day at school.

Had I known what would be displayed on my front yard, I would have suggested we go straight to the field for practice.  My parents marriage was pretty dismal at this point and the yelling had gone from inside the confines of our home to the public sphere where bystanders could take a front row seat.  Upon that front row was my friend who had yet to be introduced to my family.  Humiliation is a good adjective to insert at this moment. 

I did what most teenagers would do...crack a joke and get the hell out of there.  I called my high school bible study leader, Miss Carmean.  She was a petite lady with brown hair & bangs cut to just above her shoulders.  Her eyes projected kindness when you looked into them.  Her smile radiated warmth.  It's no wonder she was a kindergarten teacher. 

After soccer practice, she would be there with my youth pastor to pick me up.  They took me to dinner.  All I remember eating was an ice cream sundae that night.  Miss Carmean very kindly & gently said, "Kamille, would you like to spend the night at my house tonight?"  I wanted to burst out with an emphatic, "YES!"  But, I danced around the invitation, ensuring that she really wanted me and it wouldn't be a burden. 

After her several reassurances and inquiry about it being okay with my parents, we picked up my stuff and went to her home.  I had been there for bible study numerous times with her inviting little round table to welcome me in.  Yet it was her who was inviting me to sit around the table, offered me something to eat, and to help me with my homework. 

Doing homework never felt so relaxing.  She made up my bed for me, had my towel out for me in the morning and simply listened to me talk.  She didn't intrude or make me feel like I even needed to talk about the day's events.  It was through her warm touch, her reassuring smile and non-judgemental tone for not just me, but my parents as well. 

In the morning she had wheat Chex for cereal with skim milk.  I disliked both.  But, I ate.every.single.bite, because...she gave me so much more.  I didn't think of words like hospitality back then, but that's exactly what she showed me. 

 

On Sharing Hospitality at Redeeming the Table

 

1. Hospitality is opening up your home to friend & stranger.  It's creating a place that makes a person right at ease, not judged and part of your family. 

Miss Carmean didn't coerce my story out of me, or judge my family that day (or ever from my knowledge).  She didn't have the finest of meals or have pity on me. She protected my dignity, my story, & my family.  She extended care & shelter with no questions asked. 

 

2. Hospitality is not confined to just the home.

Too often we think hospitality can only be given within the sphere of home; but, that is simply not true.  How often do you walk down the road to see a vagrant ragamuffin?  How often do you look at that person in the eye to say hello, to give them some dignity? 

I remember hearing from a person who did street ministry that a homeless person found it more insulting when a passerbyer would not even look at them than not give them money.  It's not about the money, but about recognizing that each person we come in contact with is created in the image of the Most High God.  He called all of creation good, but only the bearers of his image..."very good."  This creation is worth looking at and giving them a name (dignity, worthy).

 

3. Hospitality is Blessing

If you grew up in a home where you ate around the table, conversed around the table and found much around the table, the word blessing is not hard to imagine.  If you grew up in a home, which lacked the eating, conversing, laughter, & very little found around the table, the word blessing is what you craved. 

You quickly see the word "table" associated with blessing or no blessing.  The imagery of feasting at a king's table is associated with blessing.  Not just the king's table, but the table in general. 

When I think of redeeming the table, I imagine not just my physical table within my home; but, I envision bringing Jesus style redemption, Jesus style hospitality, & Jesus style blessing wherever I find myself.  That's the person I want to be, much like Miss Carmean and her modest brown table serving up wheat Chex with skim milk. 

Because most times, the table is more than just the food.

 

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