In times past when I was speaking in different places and different countries more than is the case now in days of enforced truncated ministry, there was an experience I away found difficult…staying in bedrooms where no place had been made for me to unpack my stuff! It was a temporary situation, so I managed, but to find not a single drawer where I could unpack my clothes etc., somehow affected me. In fact, I am not so sure I ministered as well or as freely when and where that was my experience.
I think the effect upon me whether intentional or the result of thoughtlessness and lack of any gifting of hospitality in the so called hosts, was that I heard a message: “You don’t really belong here with us.”
After Morag and I shared a meal with a wonderful prison chaplain last night, I found myself thinking as I dropped off to sleep that the need to feel we are welcome, that we belong, that there is a place I can unpack my stuff, is very deep, very basic. It is of course part of the gospel that Jesus invites us into His living space and makes room for us; He wants us to know that the love of the Father for Him is a living space we can share in. There is more than enough room there for us. Whether the luggage we arrive with is helpful or not, there is room for it in the Father’s love. In that love we find that some of what is in the suitcases is never going to be needed again. Nurtured with the food of divine love, we outgrow what once seemed to fit us. It no longer looks right on us, feels right. It is no longer needed, but we are welcome to bring it all when we come through the door, until that realisation is birthed in unexpected joy unspeakable and full of glory as irrefutable living truth.
God makes room for us in Himself. Hospitality is a gift that comes from His own nature.
There are many differing thoughts about Church, Mission, etc floating around today. Reflecting the Hospitable heart of God may be a a very simple key. Would people feel after spending any time with me, any time speaking to me, that a place to belong, a space to unpack is being offered?
When I was unable to do very much at all ministry wise, indeed when I thought I might never preach again, God seemed to show me a Kingdom vision for how to live my life. He wanted me to be like a Kingdom of God tree in whose shade birds of the air could find refuge and build nests! I hope I hold on to that calling of being and offering a welcoming safe space, now that by God’s grace, I am speaking again on an occasional basis. It worked without words for a long while. My prayer is it will work with words now, that what I say will not mask the simplicity of the Hospitable Christ.
A warm memory from my childhood when T.V. used to be more about entertaining before it became a vehicle for one single issue politically correct cause after another, Andy Stuart used to invite us all into “The White Heather Club” by singing with a cheerful voice and a smiling face, “Come in! Come in! It’s nice to see you! How’s yourself? ” Thousands of us believed that invitation, and waited for it with joy each week! We could do worse than learning from that.