I love how God never erases our memories but allows them to become memorials of growth and change.
This week we celebrated 10 years of building a table where our local community could come and eat their fill. We also celebrated 23 years of making our table open to strangers.
In 1994 we began a church community in our home, around the table.
Sharing food, sharing our hearts and sharing our wine.
Some of the people that gathered we knew, but most were strangers.
They weren’t even our kind of people. They weren’t part of natural homogenous group.
If I’m honest I was scared to step out my cosy homogenous world, to step into the world of strangers gathered at my table.
I remember those feelings of being small, insignificant, of little worth and value.
I remember praying to God saying, “I don’t have much to give you but I’ve got a home…I’m not much of a cook but I’m more then willing to open my table to strangers…I want people to know that they are loved and cared for. I want my home, my heart and my table open to anyone. It’s all I have please use it if you can.”
My little table has grown and expanded.
23 years later I look across my table and I see Muslim, Christian, atheists. I see the beautiful shades of multiculturalism. I see babes in mother’s arms and littles trying to be good. Young adults belly laughing at life and olds being loved. I see people from every walk of life, some broken, some having overcome.
My little table offering has grown and expanded.
My heart overflows with joy and gratitude. I want to jump up and down on my bed, on its clean white sheets and clap my hands and shout out loud.
I love this thing called hospitality…the welcome of a stranger…
The word hospitality means to provide love to a stranger.
To welcome someone to the table is to welcome their unknown heart.
It is one of the most beautiful gifts of love we can give.
We welcome and love them as though we have always known them.
Jean Brillat-Savarin in 1825 wrote, “when we invite a person to our house it is to take charge of his happiness as long as he be beneath our roof.”
This is the heart of hospitality to want the very best for someone whilst they are in your care, and under the roof of your house. It’s a form of blessing.
I love that within my spiritual tradition that to be a leader in a church the practice of hospitality is a requirement for leadership.
Paul in writing to Timothy says that one of the fruits of a good leader is that they are hospitable people.
Hospitality is not a spiritual gift but rather a fruit of the Spirit of God active in our heart and in our life.
It’s a memorial of maturity, a sign that we are becoming like Christ.
I turn the page of the ancient text, re reading the life of Christ and on every page I find the memorial of his heart. It beats for the stranger, to welcome the unknown heart. To give them a place at the table.
I never imagined that my table would have Muslims celebrating Ramadam where conversations about Christ, the Koran and ancient prophets would occur. I never dreamed that one day I would see Muslim Sudanese and Christian Sudanese gather at the table for love, laughter and celebration. When I prayed that prayer at my small table I never imagined that we would one day entertain Prime Ministers or the poorest of the poor.
I love how memories become memorials of growth and understanding.
How we can see how far we’ve come, how much we’ve changed, how much we’ve been given.
I look back to that time when I was a young mum.
A young woman who offered up her scared and trembling heart.
Who didn’t think she had much to offer, but who was willing to offer a place at the table to the stranger.
I never dreamed that in offering space at the table that my heart would become more like that of Christ’s.
I never ever dreamed hospitality would change me.
But it has.
And as I remember I am filled with gratitude.