Faith Matters: It’s hospitality time
Trinity Church in The Pines, Grand Lake
With Memorial Day the summer hospitality season is officially here. Even though it was a little cool, Trail Ridge was closed part of the weekend and store owners indicated business wasn’t as good as they had hoped, there were still many visitors on the streets. At Trinity Church in the Pines many of the summer people have returned. Here in Grand Lake “the kids” are back at the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theater and rehearsals are underway. This last weekend the weather was a real Rocky Mountain High and crowds were even greater. Shop and restaurant owners were smiling, as the summer people and visitors began to make the cash registers ring. It’s time to express our Grand County hospitality and put out the summer welcome mat.
As I was reflecting on this season of hospitality, I realized that often our focus is on what we as a community receive as a benefit from others being here, especially in terms of employment and income. But from a Biblical perspective of hospitality, this perspective is backwards. What do I mean? Well, “hospitality” in our society tends to get reduced to making nice with visitors, when and if it is convenient for us. Certainly shop owners are glad to have them here and it is to their benefit. But some see the visitor as a nuisance. I have heard some people comment, “Things are about to get crowded, time to stay out of town.” I would want to challenge all of us to live out a Biblical understanding of hospitality, that puts the stranger first.
The Bible calls us to “welcome the stranger” for we may be entertaining “angles” unaware; welcome strangers because they may be messengers of God. The classic Biblical story of hospitality is the story of Abraham and Sarah welcoming three strangers into their home. When he sees them coming he doesn’t question whom they are, where they are going, what their purpose is. He doesn’t try to figure out if they are friends or enemies or even if they are safe. He welcomes them without question, provides them with the opportunity to freshen up, a place to relax, and serves them with the best meal he can provide. He would have family go without and borrow from the neighbors to provide it necessary. He would give up his own bed for them to use to the stay the night.
All done with no questions asked. In the course of providing hospitality, it was the guests “option” to tell about themselves. They might in conversation reveal they were on an errand to which the host would object, that violent men were hunting them, or that they were the host’s mortal enemies. But the host would provide them with every comfort, care and even physical protection as honored guests. That is certainly not the “convenient” hospitality that we think of today.
We live in a different culture, but what if we were to really practice hospitality, no questions asked, today. If we truly welcomed the stranger, we might find ourselves hosting and caring for people that have different political views and find out we really like them. We might find ourselves hosting and caring for people with very different lifestyles and discover they are not that different from us. We might find ourselves hosting and caring for people of very different religious background, and find out they are pretty nice people. Through our practice of Biblical hospitality we might find ourselves broadening our understandings and perspectives in a polarized world. We might even find ourselves changing our mind about people to whom we previously objected or thought we disliked. Through the practice of Biblical hospitality we might begin to build bridges with people from whom we have been divided in our conflicted society.
Abraham entertained three strangers that turned out to be angels, messengers of God. Maybe the strangers we entertain and come to understand and accept are there to provide us with a message from God of peace and love for others different from ourselves.
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The response to my column two weeks ago about the crisis Grand County is experiencing in housing and employment has been strong.