Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. - Matthew 25:40
"Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ." These are words from the Rule of St. Benedict, written about 1500 years ago. Benedictine spirituality includes the daily practice of deep hospitality, and monks will take in anyone who knocks on their door as if it were Christ himself standing there. The brothers give strangers a meal, a room - anything they may need - as if they were hosting the most important person in the universe.
The Matthew passage that we will be reading this Sunday was the inspiration for this Benedictine practice. Jesus says that even our tiniest acts of kindness are offerings to God. And even our smallest moments of neglect contribute to the injustice of the world.
A practice of hospitality can take many forms. It can be welcoming people into your home or church, certainly, but it can also take the form of welcoming a conversation with a stranger, or keeping an open mind when a loved one wants to explain something. Hospitality means welcoming the 'other' into your heart - whether the other is another person, or an idea or bellief that is different than yours. It can even take the form of welcoming the strangers we discover within ourselves - things like attitudes, habits or shortcomings we don't particularly like having. So while hospitality can mean accepting other people, it can also mean accepting yourself, just the way you are, warts and all. It seems to me that the more deep hospitality we can extend to ourselves, the better we will be at welcoming others just as they are, too.
We will be given the opportunity to practice hospitality this Sunday at St. James, as we are every Sunday. And here are some ideas to get you started:
Make friends with a child before church by asking them what their favorite animal is and why.
Stand in the rear of the church and greet people as they come in.
Go over and greet a newcomer in the pews and offer to sit with them.
Sit with or near a family with children so that you can support the parents with their children. (it takes a village)
Introduce newcomers to others, as you would if you were hosting a party in your own home. (After all, we really are having a celebration together each week, right? Our holy dinner party.)
Go up to someone you haven't met and say, "Hi, my name is ________"
Put on your radar at coffee hour to notice if anyone, whether new or not so new at St. James, is standing alone. Go over and ask them what they're looking forward to doing later in the week.
Join in with others coloring the advent banner during coffee hour
Offer to go to the warden's chat with someone you don't know that well.
I was recently reminded that the #1 factor in overall health and wellness is having a strong community around you. We can choose to strengthen our bonds with one another in community every single week through the practice of hospitality. How can you take part in this communal practice?
This Sunday's readings are HERE. Note we are using "Track 2" during the season of ordinary time.