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Lost Christian Practices: Hospitality – A Sermon Reflection àl a Bell


So, lo and behold, Pastor V gets up there on Sunday, preaches this sermon on how we’ve gotta be all hospitable to one another, AND HE ANNOUNCES HE’S TAKING A SABBATICAL AND LEAVING FOR A WHILE! Can you even?

I’m just playing around. Really. I support sabbaticals, like 100%. Professors take them all the time. Instead of reading on campus, we read at home.

At. Any. Rate.

I don’t want to get distracted here. This is a reflection on Christian hospitality, which seems fairly straight-forward—except it’s not.

This sermon is part of a four-part series on “Lost Christian Practices.” Four concepts have been or will be explored: prayer, hospitality, fasting, and resting. All sound good to me. I need to really pay attention to the resting one.

Here’s the Skinny:

Romans 15:7 defines hospitality: “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” We are called, then, to welcome each other across boundaries; Christian hospitality should defy the concept of “the other.” Under a Gospel-Paradigm (I just made that up), we create—in a real way—a family. We forge out a family of onetime strangers. Vermon noted that this can be one of the most effective kinds of Gospel Protest against the forces of racism, classism, sexism, and other things that divide us. It’s Gospel Protest against the marginalization of people, against segregation. We sit together and we say, “Welcome to the family.” Three kinds of “welcome” were mentioned: the welcome of a holy kiss (let’s look each other in the eye and smile), the welcome of a shared meal, and the welcome of a home.

Well, then.

I have definitely been moved by many instances of hospitality in the Church. So struck that I carry specifics with me.

Tim was once unemployed over Wendy’s birthday. We were doing that MISERABLE scramble to pay the bills, and, well, a birthday party was not gonna happen. So, a bunch of these moms from Wendy’s first grade class, ordered pizzas, got a cake, invited all of us to the park, and made our kid a birthday party.

Seriously.

I remember feeling undeserving of such kindness, and this one mom, Emily, said, [I’m paraphrasing], “Well, you’re just going to need to get used to it. That’s family.”

I was so blown away.

I can still picture Emily saying it. And the best part: Wendy still talks about how her party at the park was her favorite. (And not the weird birthday trip I orchestrated in which we trekked to the Arizona Renaissance Festival for Wendy’s tenth—while I was getting radiation treatments—and everyone, but especially my friend Lisa, who’s a nurse, took care of me in the crazy heatwave amongst the cultic “Renaissance” lasses with spilling-out cleavage, turkey legs dripping turkey grease, bawdy “Renaissance” court jesters/Shakespearean rip-offs/Robin Hood Thieves, and a gaggle of kids who only wanted to go on the rides. Tim won’t let me forget this one.)

And, then, of course, I was also floored by the way we were so cared for when I got cancer. We were humbled—plain and simple—by the generosity of others. That meal sign-up? Door-to-door gourmet delivery?

(Again, my kids still talk about Priscilla’s enchiladas.)

So: Tim and I looked at each other back then, and I said something like, How do we ever make up for it?

And Tim said something like, We can’t. We can only try to do the same for others and remember what it meant to us.

So there you go. There are so many instances. Jenny once gave us a time-share stay at Disneyland. Man oh Man. Jenny! You have no clue how many times she’s bailed me out.

It’s too much.

But, well, there are issues. I do tend to feel a little squeamish about this topic. Let’s talk for a bit.

The call is clear; I don’t doubt that.

But . . .

I am actually not very hospitable. And, really, I’ve become increasingly less so over the years. I’ve found, strangely really, that I’ve shifted from extrovert to introvert. I’ve always been shy, which I tend to bury in SOCIAL AWKWARDNESS or LARGER-THAN-LIFE-OBNOXIOUS-WRITER-PERSONA. And cancer has been no help at all. At first unconsciously and then consciously, I have pretty much burrowed in, like a bear hibernating in its den away from winter snow, to my place with the home fires burning. I have my kids. I have Tim. And I’m a-okay with that. Just the four of us. And I’ve got plans on the couch tonight. With Tim. Again, I’m good.

Do not invite us over. We will say no.

I’m in deep.

I’ve also noticed that, despite my candor aesthetic in my writing in which I expose so much, I’m kinda not very transparent in person! In other words, I’m hard to get to know! I think I’ve always been this way, though my very-public writing life has intensified my own privatization.

For instance, everyone knows about my politics. There have been, as you might imagine, consequences. Loss of friends. Disdain. Cold Shoulders. The Ubiquitous “Unfriending” on Facebook. Post-election, just chitchatting with Pastor Vermon in the sanctuary, I mentioned how hard it had been on me. I dropped this into conversation. I didn’t tell him how plagued I had been, how I hadn’t spoken to this one friend since the election, how at least three people I knew unfriended me, how I questioned the line between conviction and unity. I remember, frankly, Vermon’s surprise! He was nice (I’m not making fun of him AGAIN), don’t worry. But he commented something like, “Really? I thought you’d be the kind of person who doesn’t let it get to you.”

The Truth: It Gets To Me Immensely.

I was deeply depressed.

It was hard for me to get over the sorrow.

I hid away with Tim on the couch even more so.

But, well, I’m not wanting to discuss it.

I am absolutely, unequivocally not writing this so that people try to get me out of my shell. That’s the issue. I’m convicted. I am. I need to be more hospitable. I’m pretty content with my isolationism. I’ve justified it—numerous times—by arguing that my writing is my thing, my ministry, my calling. I don’t need to interact face-to-face. I’ve also thought how it’s all a blessing for which I’m thankful. There are so many lonely people, so many people who want to be married and aren’t, so many people who hate being stuck at home or with their own families. What an amazing gift that I’m not one of those people!

So I’m writing this for your consideration. Not for your invitation. I mean it. I’m writing it for the introverted of the world. Here are some questions. And I would love to hear from you.

Via the Internet.

  • Is hospitality the same thing as being sociable?
  • Are introverts or shy people at a disadvantage in this biblical mandate?
  • What about if one feels content in one’s “den”? Must one come out, pending availability?
  • And can we talk money? I’m sure you’ve noticed. Hospitality costs money. Those meal-sign ups? They cost money. What are poor people supposed to do? How about the middle class? Are we exempt? (What if I can afford to take my kids to the Disneynature film, but I really can’t afford dinner?) You know you’ve played around with this in your head . . .

And so. I’m just wondering. What do you think?

All People. All of Jesus.
Worship Service
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924 N 1st St, Phoenix, AZ 85004
602-495-3191
info@rooseveltchurch.org