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I write this article sitting in a house in a private road which has now decided to shut its gates to Caversham. Derby Road has decided to control who it lets in and who it shuts out!
Ironically my brief was to write about the theme of hospitality in all our Caversham churches. Are the two compatible? Hospitality is more than inviting someone into your home for a cup of tea. It involves opening up, welcoming, accepting, giving, sharing, loving, advocating, even sacrificing. God is hospitable to us, if we let him, he shares his love all the time. Hospitality is making others feel at home. Some folks automatically make you feel at home. Others may make you wish you were!
The context of Christian Hospitality is love. Love, first for what Christ has given you with the recognition that everything you have is a gift from Him and belongs to Him. Second it is a love for others.
Hospitality means, primarily, the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines or rules and regulations.
Jesus eats with outsiders, he does not preach to them. He does not try to convert them. He gives them free space. What does it cost us to be hospitable? How should we practice hospitality? Without grumbling .This may be the hardest part! How often do we find ourselves struggling to serve others cheerfully? The command to be hospitable is unconditional. It does not say, “Show hospitality if you have time….or, if it is convenient….” or, “if you have a big enough house…or, if you have a complete set of matching plates”.
We are called to be hospitable no matter who we are and no matter what our circumstances are, AND we are to do it without complaining. Hospitality, therefore, is a concrete, down-to-earth test of our fervent love for God and His people. Love can be an abstract, indistinct idea; hospitality is specific and tangible. We seldom complain about loving others too much, but we do complain about the inconveniences of hospitality. Hospitality is love in action. Hospitality is the flesh and muscle on the bones of love. Through caring acts of hospitality, the reality of our love is tested.
Rev. Marion Pyke
Associate Priest. St Peter’s, Caversham