by Christine Sine
As you read today’s post, Tom and I are probably winging our way across the Atlantic towards home. We are at the end of one of the most remarkable journeys of our lives. Part celebration, part pilgrimage, it has reconnected us to friends and revitalized our faith, enriching our lives with new perspectives and understandings in so many ways.
Hospitality as the Godspace theme for July may have been chosen by accident to coincide with this trip, I realize but it has been a very intentional theme for me throughout the entire journey. Now as we head into August with a new theme – shalom, wholeness and the kingdom of God – the significance seems to grow.
Celtic Christians believed hospitality was a doorway into the kingdom of God and as I reflect back on my own experiences in this last month I feel I understand more clearly what they meant. The forming of friendships through hospitality, the breaking down of barriers between strangers, the overcoming of fear of the other who is different are all glimpses of the kingdom of God brought into being through hospitality.
The kingdom of God is the ultimate place of hospitality. It is the place where friend and stranger from different cultures, ages and social strata all sit together at a great banquet feast, just as we have done with so many over the last month. It is a place where there is much fun and laughter and celebration, where barriers of class, culture and misunderstanding are broken down. Where fear becomes love, indifference becomes caring and enemies become friends. It is a place where hospitality and welcome beckon all of us towards healing and wholeness.
It is this kind of feast that I think is previewed in Isaiah 25:6
In Jerusalem, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
will spread a wonderful feast
for all the people of the world.
It will be a delicious banquet
with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat.
Years ago, I remember seeing a painting that supposedly depicted this banquet feast of God. I say supposedly because it was a very formal dinner table set with beautiful plates and lots of silverware. But there were no people at the table and, to be honest, I cannot imagine most of my friends and acquaintances feeling comfortable with such formality anyway.
The kingdom banquet feast will be a place where not only do all feel welcomed but all feel honored and respected. None of us will feel out of place because we don’t know which utensils to use for which course. None of us will feel conspicuous because we don’t eat meat or dairy or gluten. There will be something for all of us to enjoy. And who will be serving the meal at that feast? Jesus our great and glorious servant king will.
Some of the last and most enduring images we have of Jesus combine hospitality and service – washing feet at the last supper, cooking breakfast on the beach for his disciples after his resurrection – hospitality and servanthood, the culture of the kingdom, the rich and enduring signs of welcome that we have experienced time and again over this last month.
These are the images that come to my mind as I think of Lilly Lewin’s question When you think of the kingdom of God what comes to mind? For me the kingdom of God is like the banquet feasts we have experienced in so many places on our travels. But it is not just a feast for us and a few friends, it is a feast for everyone.
What is Your Response?
When you think of the kingdom of God what comes to mind?
This is probably one of the most important questions for us to grapple with. Listen to the recording of The Irish Rune of Hospitality below and sit quietly in the presence of God. Think about the eternal world of God and especially that great banquet feast to which we will all be welcomed at the end of time.
What images come to mind for you? What actions could you take to make this place of welcome a reality, at least in some small way, today?