Monday, April 26, 2010

New Wineskins: Hospitality

I have been told that wait staff in restaurants are not particularly happy to see church folks after Sunday morning worship. They often find the “brothers and sisters” demanding, rude, and lousy tippers! I am sure that not all believers are like this (many of us try to smile, call servers by name, and leave appropriate tips), but this does remind us how important first impressions are.

In Genesis 14, there is an interesting story about first impressions involving Abram (Abraham) and Melchizedek, the king of Salem and a “priest of God Most High.” As Abraham returned victorious from a battle, Melchizedek brought out bread and wine and blessed Abraham. In response to this show of hospitality, Abraham gave him a tenth of the spoils of the victory.

The story’s impact comes not only from the act of hospitality on the part of Melchizedek, but the response of Abraham. The king of Salem was “the other.” He was neither part of Abraham’s family nor one of his friends. He was, however, a holy man and a”priest of God Most High.” He welcomed Abraham, cared for him, and blessed him. Abraham responded with openness and gratitude. Subsequently, this type of hospitality was expected among the Hebrew people. In the Old Testament, they are repeatedly directed to show hospitality for “the stranger within their gates.”

Christians must also show hospitality to both those within and outside of the church. We must be aware of the needs of others as well as the possibility of their blessing us. Although we have come a long way in race relations in our country, it is rare to see African-Americans in a white church and vice versa. When a black person is found in the halls of one of our white churches, the first response is often “What are you doing here?” (even if it is not verbalized).

Missional faith communities are very intentional about creating community and practicing hospitality. They are committed to one another but not at the expense of “the other” who is different in some significant way. In fact, missional faith communities go out of their way to embrace those who are different. In so doing, they may well be blessed.

No one said being missional was easy!

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