Hospitality makes me happy. Whether I'm giving it or receiving it, the reality of connecting with people, and creating or enjoying a space of welcome brings me great delight. After I moved into my home last year I was eager to invite people over and to share my space with anyone and everyone. But I couldn't, of course, there were still boxes everywhere, and the place was a mess and it wasn't really set up for hosting. It only took me a couple weeks to realize I had Martha Stewart Syndrome.
At some point as I was growing up Martha was all the rage - her parties were perfect, not a thing out of place, themes, colours, food, and decorations were all purposefully put together and often extravagent. I'm not sure when it happened, but this became my idea of what it meant to be a good host. The house had to be clean. I had to have the "wow" factor. My furniture had to match. Everything I offered had to be homemade or crafty - which stressed me out because I'm not crafty or highly creative! These unrealistic expectations strangely only applied to me. When I went to a friend's place I expected none of it - I just loved being there!
So here I was, in my own place, face to face with my crazy notion of hospitality and the reality that it was going to be a long time until I "settled in". And that's when it struck me. Hospitality does not mean putting on an "event" like Martha Stewart. I realized that I needed to die to the idea that I can only open up my home to others when everything is perfect, or when I have something fresh coming out of the oven, or when my place looks like a show home. Hospitality is a posture of our heart - a willingness to welcome others in, to create space for conversation, to listen, to love. Hospitality doesn't even have a physical space! "Hospitality" is something we are - something we become - and that's why it is a gift.
People are longing for hospitality, to be welcomed and to be known. As Christians we need to move beyond the online pictures and forums, the magazine racks of staged pictures, the Martha Stewart type advice and realize that we offer the best hospitality when we offer ourselves and share the blessings God has given us. It's that simple.
As deacons our call (as written in the Form for Ordination) includes these lines: "Deacons serve by showing mercy to the church and to all people. They received this task in the early church when the apostles designated special persons for the work of mercy (Acts 6; 2 Cor.8-9)... Deacons are therefore called to assess needs, promote stewardship and hospitality... They are also called to speak words of Christian encouragement. Thus in word as well as deed they demonstrate the care of the Lord himself."
We need to understand what true hospitality is so that we can live it out as Christ did. I'm still learning this! I began inviting people over into my "unsettled mess" and shared whatever I had - and not surprisingly, people didn't complain about the fact that things weren't perfect, or organized, or planned exactly right. Instead we laughed, we played, we enjoyed each other and it was good. Sure, I'll admit I still prefer it if people drop by when the home is clean and I've just baked some cookies to share but when that's not the case, they are still welcomed with open arms... and maybe an apology for the mess :) (transformation takes time!!).