Hospitality is a big deal in the Bible. There's not too much to say about being a guest, but there's quite a lot written about how we treat guests, strangers, family and even our enemies, and in Romans 12:13 we are instructed to 'practice hospitality' so there's no out clause.
The Proverbs 31 woman in verse 15 "gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls" (notice the servant girls are being served here?) and in verse 20 "she opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy."
In Genesis 18 Abraham is visited by three heavenly visitors who tell him that Sarah will bear a child within a year, but before they tell him this news Abraham runs to his herd and chooses the best calf to be prepared as a meal for his guests and then stands by under a tree as they eat.
In Hebrews 13, Paul writes "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it."
In that ancient Jewish and then the post-Calvary first church cultures, and indeed in other cultures throughout the world, extending hospitality to strangers as well as those they knew was normal - indeed, with no family nearby and no motels or hostels or a campervan or caravan park many travelers and their families would have starved if not for the natural extension of hospitality through food and lodging.
I am also reminded of a different hospitality, that of the Good Samaritan who stopped and cared for a man badly beaten, a man of a different faith whom he should not have had anything to do with, but with compassion and mercy took the man to a safe refuge and paid for his ongoing care.
There are many more instances of hospitality being shown through the Bible and I hope you look for them, but today I'd like us to fast forward to 2018 and what hospitality means now.
Over the past twenty years or so I've noticed a huge increase in the awareness of food intolerance and allergies, dietary choices such as vegetarian or vegan, and some cultures and faiths which have restrictive diets. So at times, when it comes to having guests over for a meal or to stay for a few days, a hostess (or host) can feel quite overwhelmed with the task of providing suitable and tasty meals if the guests require a diet different from their own. For some, this will be reason enough not to extend an invitation - "It's too hard". And you know, I have felt this way too.
But then the Lord opened the eyes of my understanding and placed a warmth and compassion in my heart to let go of that fear of overwhelm and failure (yes, it was a fear) and instead of looking at our differences to focus on our commonalities. Epiphany on a large scale for this gal!
Every day I make different meals, every few weeks I'll try something new. I've done gluten free, dairy free, paleo, vegetarian, sugar-free and vegan among other things ...and much of that without putting a label on it, that's just the way the meal came together or the recipe ran. So now I'm always able to look at the big picture, to focus on what my guests, Mr E and I have in common. Truly, it's so much easier than creating specific meals with ingredients I may not have confidence in.
Tomorrow my middle daughter Anita will be flying 2,100 kilometres with her 4yo Aminah to visit with us. We have not seen each other for two years and the excitement is high in our family for this reunion.
We will be together every day either at Blossom's or my home, and all meals will be prepared with love and joy - but the challenge for Blossom and I in this area is new. You see, Anita is a Muslim and her religious dietary requirements are strict. At first Bloss and I felt that familiar sense of overwhelm take hold and panic began to creep in, shadowing the joy of our family reunion. We were Googling and praying back and forth, texts and concerns flying between our phones.
But then - GOD.
A reminder, what do you have in common? We had forgotten that Anita eats a predominantly plant based diet and so do Mr and I. We had forgotten that in a week of my recent menu planning there was nothing that Anita could not enjoy, and that Blossom is herself an accomplished cook of healthy vegetarian fare when it is needed. We had forgotten that this visit was a gift from God (believe me) and we were not to be put off by fear of what to eat. We were to relax, trust God, and with open arms and hearts receive our daughter/sister and her own sweet child in simplicity and kindness and hospitality, not allowing the unimportant to become important, but resting in our commonality and allowing the Holy Spirit to provide everything else.
So I guess what I'm trying to share with you today is not to let fear or overwhelm hold you back from opening your home to others; do not stand back from offering a meal invitation to those who eat differently to you.
The key thing is to "do all to the glory of God" and remember in sharing that meal or offering that spare room you are doing the same for Jesus.
How incredible a thought is that?
May your day be blessed and your heart made wise, as only Christ can do.