Sunday, March 6, 2011

Launch Into Lent: Extend Hospitality and Enlarge Your Welcome Table

For many of us, it's easier to give up sugar than to do what I'm about to suggest. For the period of Lent, extend hospitality to people. What I'm really suggesting is that we look for more ways to share a meal together.

I know all the reasons why we don't share meals much anymore. Our schedules are hectic, and it's hard to find time when we're all free. If we invite people to our houses, we need to find time to clean them before people come over. We worry about what we'll talk about. We're tired, and we just want to be left alone.

But Jesus came to show us that we're not meant to be alone. Jesus' ministry was essentially a table ministry. He invited people to share a meal, and in doing this, he won their souls.

Imagine sharing a meal with Jesus. What would you talk about? I imagine that many of the conversations would be seen as mundane and meaningless to us. But what a treat, to share the particulars of our days with our Savior.

A similar dynamic happens when we eat together. We're so starved for attention, even as we purchase our food from drive throughs and eat in our cars that have been remodeled (with cupholders and platforms to place our fast food bags) to serve our desires to eat while travelling.

The human body was not meant to function this way: always on the go, always trying to do 3 or 4 tasks at the same time. We are people starved for nourishment, starved for rest, starved for appreciation. Sharing a meal together won't satisfy all those needs, but it's a start.

Here are some ideas about a variety of ways that you can emulate Jesus this Lent:

--Invite someone over to dinner. Warn them that your house is dusty, and then, all you really need to do is to make sure the toilet is clean, a 5 minute task. Give up the belief that your house must be picture perfect before you invited people over. If people snoop and see the ring around your bathtub, who cares?

And what to serve? Even if you have no time to cook, a spaghetti dinner is easy enough, if you use a jar of sauce; add some bread from the supermarket bakery, a bag of meatballs from the freezer case, and a bag of salad from the produce section, and you've got a cheap, easy meal, one suitable for vegetarians and carnivores alike. Or pick up some chicken (fried or rotissery) from the deli to go with your bakery bread and bag of salad. While you're in the bakery, buy some brownies for dessert.

--If you don't want to have people over, invite people to go to a restaurant with you.

--Organize a pot luck dinner or lunch at work. Promise each other that you won't talk shop.
If you don't work outside your houose, organize a pot luck dinner or lunch at the place where you spend the most time.

--Go to a retirement center and eat with the residents. Ask them questions about what life was like when they were your age.

--Look for other places where lonely people might welcome your company: soup kitchens, immigrant centers, churches, hospitals.

Here are some other ways to extend hospitality, ways that don't involve the actual sharing of a meal:

--write letters to your loved ones who are far away and can't come to dinner.

--give food to a soup kitchen or a food pantry.

--visit the sick in the hospitals and rehab centers. If you're fortunate enough not to have sick friends or family members, ask your church if they need your help in visiting the sick.

--You could extend this practice to visiting the members of your various communities who are stuck in their homes. If you know their dietary preferences, bring a treat. If not, bring a bouquet of flowers.

--help with coffee hour at church.

--Organize some sort of program at a place that has lonely people. Read poems to residents of a nursing home. Teach your hobby to a Girl Scout or Boy Scout troop. Take an art project to a prison.

--Don't forget our troops, many of whom are serving far away from home. You can send care packages. You can give money for phone cards. You can support the USO, which does so much for troops and their families. If you've got a favorite group, by all means support it. If you don't, be careful, as we've seen lots of scams in this area lately.

--make sure that you're the person who says hi and makes the effort with the new people. I went to a Lutheran church once; I was early and put on the visitor sticker that the usher handed me. I was obviously a visitor, so I waited for the church members to welcome me. Not one soul spoke to me. Intrigued, I decided to linger after the service, even though I wanted to flee. Again, no one spoke to me--I was wearing a visitor sticker, for pity's sake!!! I never went back.

You encounter new people all the time: at church, at school, at work, at meetings. Say hi. Make conversation. Sure it's uncomfortable. Do it anyway. You'll get better at it, and soon it won't be so uncomfortable.

No comments: