Inhospitality is the new Hospitality

My column for The Antelope County News November 18,2020.

Five years ago, Mike and I bought a new table. Moving to Neligh, we were concerned if the table would fit in the parsonage. Without its leaves it seats eight but with leaves it expands and expands again to seat twenty. We love being hospitable. We love having our whole big family, our six brilliant, funny kids and their significant others and friends gathered around the table eating delicious food. We love having guests. Our guest book, currently sitting unused and lonely in the entryway after all these COVID-19 months, is filled with the names of exchange students, refugees, friends passing through town, church members and neighbors who’ve given us the great gift of their time and good company around our table over the years.

When I think of Jesus, I think of all the meals he shared. He ate with his friends, with tax collectors and “sinners,” he oversaw the feeding of 5,000 people and 4,000 people in the first-ever church “pot-luck” suppers. Jesus cooked breakfast on the lakeshore for his friends and gathered them together around the table in a meal we still remember in worship when we take communion.

Gathering for meals is holy. Gathering for meals is important. Hospitality is part of living life to its fullest.

This year, Mike’s birthday falls on Thanksgiving. Any other year, we would be gathering the whole crew, in-laws and out-laws and stragglers without somewhere else to be and we’d be hosting a whole house-full for a feast around our big table. Instead, because of how much we love all those we’d ordinarily invite to join us and all their co-workers and neighbors with whom they’ll be in contact in the days and weeks after Thanksgiving, we won’t be hosting anyone at the parsonage for dinner.  COVID-19 is running amok in Nebraska. So, Mike and I will be sitting across from each other, just the two of us at our big table, feasting on the goodness of God’s love and giving thanks for faith and friends and family far away.

Gathering for meals is holy. So is not gathering in order to preserve each other’s health. Gathering for meals is important. So is knowing it is not the season to gather. Hospitality is part of living life to its fullest. So is foregoing the parties this year so those we love are alive to be with us next year.

Jesus, out of love, gave his life for us. Sad as it will be, we too, can give, really just a little, we can give up our Thanksgiving traditions this year. This one time, the most hospitable thing we can do is to be inhospitable, limiting who sits at our feast tables even as we celebrate the unlimited goodness of God.

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