The ginger cookies slipped off the parchment paper and onto the coils at the bottom of the oven. Like any responsible adult, I did the only thing I could think of: attempt to rescue the cookies. As the parchment paper went up in flames, I hissed for my husband who was entertaining neighbors in the living room. “Um, darling. Would you mind coming here for a second?” I asked, trying to sound calm while attempting to remember if I should use flour or water to put out an oven fire. (I did neither.)
Needless to say, the cookies were ruined, and our visitors were blessed with the aroma of sugar and butter congealing on the oven floor. Not exactly a Martha Stewart moment.
Living intentionally with our neighbors has meant our neatly scheduled dinner parties with friends have blurred into thrown together meals on weeknights and cookies baked while neighbors chat over tea. After serving two of the worst suppers I’ve ever made, I’ve begun to question what it means to welcome people into our home as well as to accept the hospitality of others.
Growing up, friends, family and strangers would trickle through our front door in a seemingly unending stream. Despite toddlers running underfoot, my mother would serve crackers with French cheeses, dinners with multiple side dishes, and fill the table with mounds of fresh berries, warm cookies and a decadent cake. Not surprisingly, my expectations of myself as a hostess are off the charts. When guests enter, I offer them drinks, apologize for the “mess” and frantically taste and tweak supper. I apologize for the mismatched tablecloth and dishes, un-hung pictures, tap water and global oil prices.
Recently, I’ve begun to think that I’m more interested in making myself look fabulous than I am in making my guests feel comfortable. Ouch.
In contrast, as we live alongside many broken and loving neighbors, I am humbled by their generosity. Sometimes this hospitality is simply cookies from a package (gasp) or frozen pizza, but it is offered with love and a genuine desire to welcome me as a guest. There are no airs of false humility or perfection, and no excessive apologizing.
Someone recently suggested I consider Jesus as a model of hospitality. As far as Scripture tells us, Jesus didn’t have a home base during his three years of ministry. No teapot, cloth napkins or cinnamon-spice candles. In fact, Jesus was almost always the guest. He ate at the homes of Pharisees, disciples, friends, tax collectors; he ate alongside sinners and prostitutes and the broken.
Jesus’ hospitality was not in his cooking skills or homemaking arts, but rather in his posture of receiving and embracing others. Wherever Jesus went during His earthly ministry, He welcomed people into a relationship. He invited them to follow Him, learn from Him and love Him. He extended grace to leaders and losers. He gladly accepted odd, unusual or small offerings. And to all of us, He invites us live freely and intimately with Him in his home, Heaven.
What does it mean to practice hospitality and welcome people into my home? Home is the place where I peel off my shoes after a long day, where I laugh with my husband and where I labor over chores. It’s a resting place amid fears and frustrations, and the launching pad for our aspirations and activities. By practicing authentic hospitality, I can lower the veil of my well-put together life. In a neighborhood fraught with crime, refugees and low-incomes, I can welcome neighbors and friends into a space of comfort and safety by honestly allowing my failings and limitations to show.
Hospitality is about grace: gathering around a table, thanking God for underserved favour and food, and enjoying a meal as a gift from the host. I’m learning that hospitality is as much about receiving as it giving. Whether I’m the hostess or guest, it’s not about performing or impressing; rather, it’s about broken people seated around a kitchen table, contentedly eating, sharing lives and extending grace in Jesus’ name.
The mission of Intersection is to help our readers to see how the gospel of Jesus intersects & transforms all of life in a very real way. Our goal is to destroy the false & harmful dichotomy between 'the sacred' & 'the secular' by presenting a wide range of perspectives that focus on different aspects of life in the city. These stories, reflections, observations, & opinions all have one thing in common—the shared conviction that every arena of life can be holy & beautiful when it is lived out in full awareness of the gospel & in full submission to the leadership of Jesus. Although the Intersection team loves, values, & supports all of its contributors, the views expressed in their posts are ultimately their own & may not necessarily reflect the beliefs & values of New City Church.