Behold, It is Blessed to Give and Receive

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I’ve been thinking about hospitality lately. There’s a lot of hosting and being hosted this time of year.

On Christmas day my immediate family is playing host to my wife’s extended family.

Last week our family went out for dinner at a Lebanese restaurant and was treated to some great Middle Eastern hospitality by the owner/cook. Although we had a server, he was our host. He kept coming out to check on how each of us was doing with our food, and brought out several samples to make sure that each of us had plenty of food that we would like.

As we think about Jesus coming into the world I wonder, who was host and who was guest? The answer is not so easy.
John 1 tells us that all things were made through the Word. He was the grand Host, creating the world, and populating it with humans. At his incarnation, things changed. In the same chapter John tell us that this Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. That sounds as if he came into our world, and we humans hosted him.

In my limited knowledge of the Roman Catholic mass, Jesus is seen especially as host. The communion wafers are called “The Host.” Because the leftover consecrated wafers are kept in the altar in the front of the sanctuary, worshipers bow to The Host of the feast as they enter to celebrate mass.

We Protestants give more emphasis on Jesus as guest. In our worship, we talk a great deal about “having a personal relationship with Jesus.” We speak of “asking Jesus into our hearts.” A Protestant devotional classic is called “My Heart, Christ’s Home.”

These are emphases of course; Catholics and Protestants recognize Jesus as both host and guest. What difference does that make for hospitality in church life?

Healthy churches think about and work at hospitality. Like our Lord himself, they give and receive hospitality graciously. In the body of Christ, all of us are hosts and all of us are guests. All of us reflect the Lord himself, who received and gave. All of us have something to give and something to receive from each other.

Too often, people with disabilities are seen only as people who receive, and nondisabled people view themselves as the ones who give. This Christmas, I hope you have the joy of giving and receiving.

Giving hospitality: A couple days ago, someone sent me an article from the Catholic Digest called “The Deacon in the Power Wheelchair.” In that article, the author Kathy Kuczka describes ways that Catholic churches are growing in their welcome to people with disabilities. For churches that want to grow their hospitality toward people with disabilities, she says that one of the first steps that churches can take is, “to look around and notice, not only who is worshiping beside us, but also who isn’t – and why.” When we play host to other people, especially people in need, we play host to Christ himself. (Matthew 25:31-46) This Christmas let’s take careful not of who is not worshiping among us and ask what we can do to make our church fellowships more inviting.

Receiving hospitality: As we think of the people we know, we might think that some people have nothing to give us. People with disabilities are often viewed by nondisabled people as having nothing to give. May that never happen in our churches! When we receive the blessing of other people’s love, we experience a taste of God’s grace as well. "Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights . . . " James 1:17 (HCSB) Let’s make a conscious effort to receive from people who are thought of as having nothing to give.

As we give and receive hospitality, we and our churches grow more and more like Christ.

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Sounds good on paper, but don't kid yourself Mark. There are a host of should's that we as broken sinners should be doing, yet they don't happen. I am just thankful that they don't put people in care homes very quickly. History is a good reminder of how far we come in our thinking on disability. During WW2 the Holocaust included the disabled in mass numbers but it is hardly mentioned. I find people in public don't like that we get special parking and for that matter a lot people don't like American with Disabilities Act untill they need it. I see people abusing the parking without a care.I avoid crowds because people will knock you over if you are not watching for yourself. That includes Church! Your freinds slowly melt away because you can't do what they can. Even your family gets burned out so you can't tell them how you feel. The church doesn't think were needed and they are probably correct in their own minds. But you always have Jesus who is all you need. In our last election people made their concerns known, they don't want people like me to have health care or SS unless  you can earn it.  I am lucky because I don't need it but I know lots of people who do. The church is the people and untill they understand what it is like but they can't comprehend past their own experience. But I might add they do have a lot to tell you on how to be better. Imagine never being able to make the standard after you were there before. Ken

Guide

Ken, thanks for giving your perspective. Since I don't live with a disability myself, it's very helpful to hear from someone who does. Mark

Ken, I totally understand where you are coming from.  The saddest part for me is that friends DO melt away -- even Christian friends.  It hurts MOST when your Christian friends ignore you or quit contacting you....  THEY are the ones who should be the best about caring -- Christians should want to care like Jesus did.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I guess I expect "more" from my Christian friends than non-Christian friends.  Especially those who have been Christians a LONG time. A person with a disability can become a non-priority because unless your friends also HAVE a disability, very few people truly "get" how we feel.  They also don't understand that when they "melt away" from us, it just makes us feel less needed and less loved.  Less worthy -- like there IS something "wrong with us" and they are supposedly "normal."  They don't realize our hearts can be broken probably easier than people without disabilities -- and that this "melting away" hurts us deeply.  People don't THINK about what their decisions or comments can do to us.  In my case at least, my self-esteem and emotions are very fragile.  Sometimes the church doesn't only think you are not NEEDED, but some individuals at least believe that you are NOT CAPABLE. 

I feel totally for you regarding your last statement.  "Imagine never being able to make the standard after you were there before."  I have mental health issues and a movement disorder -- I used to be able to accomplish anything and everything.  I had tons of friends and was very social.  I had a complicated high level job and was very good at everything.  I was a leader at church and at work.  Learning new things (like technology/software) came so easy!  I learned it first, and then taught others.  I could play piano/keyboard/guitar and have changes made up to the last second before church started with no problems.  I struggle with last minute changes now.  I have to run extra copies so I can play left to right without having to turn back pages for any repeats.  At work and at church, I was the one everyone else turned to for advice and help -- and now no one even thinks of asking me.  People DO just fade away -- people who are supposedly your "friends" (and are Christians/members of the same church) but who don't care enough to even return a phone call or e-mail. 

I understand about not being able to talk with your family as well.  Half the time I feel like I am pretending with my family.  Disabilities are hard for the entire family -- that IS true, and ALL of us need love and support.  But, for those of us with certain disabilities at least, not even our closest family members "get it."  In fact, they sometimes do the exact opposite of what WOULD help and I can't talk to them.  I know what you mean about ADA, social security, etc.  I was recently found disabled under social security.  I started to cry because it felt like a "confirmation" that I am not the same person -- not as worthy as I once was.  I worked for decades and I was told by my doctors that I deserve the money, but I am hiding it from almost everyone I know.  Sometimes I want to yell out to people -- why don't you try switching places with me for one week and then see how you feel about these "special provisions"?   I wish I could get back to work.  I've been back, on leave, then back -- and it is now to the point that I definitely can't work.  It is very hard to accept.  I also am glad people aren't put in institutions so quickly as years ago.  Sometimes I do wonder if it would be best for my family and my church if I WAS off somewhere else... for THEIR sake, not mine. 

It hurts inside when I remember the person I once was and what I am now.  I try to remember that my health issues are/were not MY own doing.  We can hold our heads high because God IS still using us.  Sometimes we can't see it and others ignore us -- sometimes because they don't know what to do or say.  BUT, God uses all of us somehow even with our limitations.  God is using YOU through your comments here in the Network.  You are a voice for all people with disabilities -- physical or mental -- and YOU UNDERSTAND how we feel and aren't afraid to share it.  I, for one, gain great encouragement from your posts throughout the Network -- and also Mark's here in the Disabilities Concerns section.  My brain issues make reading the Bible difficult.  I can read the words, but when I turn the page, what I've read is kind of "gone."  I love God because I know it is what I ALWAYS believed from little on.  I try to trust in Jesus because I KNOW that I felt happiness and actually FELT God's love the first 30+ years of my life.  I rely on that memory of what I used to FEEL inside since I don't feel much at all anymore (numbness).  I used to be an avid book and Bible reader.  Being able to go to the network and read what is written helps remind me at least for a short time that God does love me and we are valuable to Him.  Reading your thoughts reminds me that I am not alone and others have the same feelings I do.  I try to remember that it doesn't really matter how "valuable" we are to others here on earth (how they value us).  We are still God's children and He loves us even when it feels no one else does.  In His eyes we are perfect -- even now. 

I've been reading the network basically since it was started and just recently built enough courage to post.  Ken and Mark, while reading your posts -- Ken especially -- I feel as if I've found a friend that TRULY understands.

Thanks B, If you every want to talk just say so. It would be my to my honor to listen.

God bless you

Ken