Hospitality: The Way of the Word
Jesus loved a good dinner party. Throughout the New Testament, we see him at table, surrounded by friends (and frenimies!). His parting gesture of remembrance was to ask us to get together, sit at a table, break bread and drink from a cup. Although we have institutionalized the Last Supper into a ritual, at its heart it is a meal. He wanted us to gather in small groups, pass the food and enjoy each other’s holy company, gathering strength for facing the world outside our support system.
Even during his time here on earth, he was not particularly admired for his home-based approach. He said, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say,’Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners.’” Jesus was not selective about who he had dinner with. He did not reserve seats at his table only for those who were already worthy—he knew that table would be empty—but he chose instead to eat with a variety of folks, people of all walks of life, men and women, who flocked around him to partake of the wisdom he offered up.
Hear his words of invitation:
“Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42
“Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Luke 19:5
“Simon, I have something to tell you…I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.” Luke 7:40,44.
“While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and ‘sinners’ came and ate with him and his disciples…[Jesus said,] “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’” Matt. 9:10,13
Jesus used the table and the fellowship around it, to draw us into the kind of communion that foreshadows our heavenly home. Our dining room table fits up to 12, a number that coincides with the number of intimate friends Jesus chose to help him change the world from the inside out. His revolutionary approach didn’t involve strength as we know it in a worldly sense, but true power from on high. By sitting together and sharing our lives while we refresh our bodies with fuel for the journey, we experience a tiny taste of what God wants for us. The hospitality of the table, of the small group gathered together, adds completion to the Lord’s prayer, closing the circle from our daily bread to “Your kingdom come, your will be done.”
How does Jesus’ message of the table translate to us in our day? Are we to host weekly dinner parties in our home? Maybe. But he may also be calling us to a higher vision of what his way means. While we tend toward the literal, Jesus tends toward the figurative, asking us to take what he said and lived and expand it broadly into a whole lifestyle that emulates his Way. Yes, we are to open our homes, apartments, condos, cars, hands, bank accounts, storage units—in fact our entire selves—but even more than that, we are to show hospitality of the heart, living as people who are truly transformed by love and willing to follow Jesus to the table and beyond. This transformation of the heart makes the table and the bread and the cup one more vehicle for love.
Our hospitality as people of Jesus’ Way leads us to have an open door policy, not just of our homes but of our hearts. We are not here to preserve and protect, or to solidify and establish but instead to spend and give, to pour out and to lay down in acts of selfless love.
Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). Being full of life stems directly from the table of our Lord, a place of love and acceptance, a place of grace and joy. We are all invited to share, to hold out an extra seat for someone else. The circle of love is never full and everyone is invited to come, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in and eat with him and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20)