Saturday, 10 November 2007


I was listening to a talk recently where the speaker asked us to complete the sentence "The Son of Man came....". He suggested some answers. How about " seek and save the lost" (Luke 19:10)? Or perhaps " give his life as a ransom." (Mk 10:45) But the speaker reminded us that it can also be completed "...eating and drinking." (Matt 11:19) I remember my surprise when he mentioned that possible version. His talk was a powerful reminder of the hospitality of the Lord Jesus. His sharing of meals with the 'sinner' and the poor is a well-documented and attested aspect of his ministry (particularly in Luke's gospel). Meals serve as a powerful kingdom visual aid. They foreshadow its coming, highlight the kingdom as celebration but, above all, stress the hospitality of God to the outcast. But, what consequences does this have for our practice of hospitality? A few suggestions...

Hospitality easily degenerates into having people over for dinner once in a while. But surely the middle class dinner party falls far short of the ministry of the Lord Jesus. True hospitality is about welcoming people into our lives. It must be part of an ongoing commitment to people. It's also about 'embracing' people whoever they are and whatever they've done. Hospitality is really being practiced when we welcome the outcast, the sinner, our enemy (Luke 14:12). No-one gets left behind in the church. At that point the grace of the kingdom is being powerfully shown. Further, we need to get away from the idea of meal as 'performance' i.e. a display of my culinary skill/ showing off the perfect ordering of my home. Perhaps we need to do meals in a very different way, involving people, letting them share in the preparation and asking for help (rather than showing our self-sufficiency). The meal then becomes a display of community rather than an invitation of people into my 'perfect' world. How easily we slip into a bourgeois spirituality that is more about surface, appearance and performance than grace, authenticity and community.