by Barbie Perks
We’ve spoken many, many times about how the Covid-19 pandemic robbed us of fellowship and community. And how slowly getting back to ‘normal’ life has changed how we interact with others around us.
A couple of questions to ponder:
- Exactly what have I lost during the years of isolation?
- Can I name it?
- Do I miss it?
- Do I want it back?
- What does fellowship look like to me now, compared with 2 or 3 years ago?
One of the ways my husband and I connected especially beautifully was through having an open home, and hosting meals and get-togethers for our friends and church community. He is a sociable extrovert who loves conversations and company. I tend to be on the introverted, happy-with-my-own-company scale. Over the years we learned how to compromise, and you know, hospitality was a wonderful gift from God to us. It was both a service and a ministry, a choice to step out and love in a very practical manner.
In South Africa, the (either lunch or supper) braai (barbecue) is a time-honoured way of offering hospitality. In Iringa, we experienced a Saturday morning ‘pancake’ breakfast where people got together to meet newcomers, or just share their weekly activities and prayer needs. It was a lovely time for us and we determined to do this as well when we returned to SA.
We moved into a retirement village in January, not entirely sure what to expect, but open to what God might have for us in this new season of our lives. There is a fellowship committee that organises a monthly braai, and a second mid-month event. We have built-in hospitality events in our village! How cool is that!! It’s a wonderful way for my husband to get his regular social fix without any work from me, plus church attendance is back to normal.
And yet… the introverted me was missing out. I love to organise and prepare, and I missed the open-home vibe. Last week, a friend was due back from a trip, the airport trip was around supper time, so I said to bring him back to supper with us. Then decided to invite another couple, who it appeared were fetching their neighbours from the same flight, so the invite was extended to them, then to two other couples, and our immediate neighbour. Suddenly I was full into an ‘event’, and sorting out seating, plates, cutlery – and I discovered I was singing! I felt normal again. The earth had tilted back into stability. Wow!!
Jesus shared many meals during his ministry – with close friends, with strangers, with people opposed to him and seeking to discredit and even kill him. Those meals were opportunities he used to initiate conversations, to bring healing touches and words to those who needed it, to laugh with his friends, to restore outcasts to society. We may not necessarily do all those things, but sometimes even the invitation sends a message to the person: we value you and your company.
Think of someone you could value with an invitation to a meal and company with others. Who is God calling you to connect with today?
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by Elaine Breckenridge; feature photo by Elaine: “‘EARTHRISE’ Picture taken of my large framed reprint”
“Earthrise,” the first known picture of the Earth from the vantage point of the Moon, was taken by astronaut William Anders on the Apollo 8 mission in 1968. Enthralled by the picture, I was delighted to be gifted by my husband with a very large and beautifully framed reprint. It hangs in the bedroom on my side of the bed. Every morning, it is a reminder to be grateful for the wild and cosmic hospitality of God.
The phrase “cosmic hospitality” comes from a chapter in Matthew Fox’s seminal book on creation spirituality called Original Blessing. Reflecting on the cosmic hospitality of God, he writes, “The Creator God is a gracious and abundant and generous host/hostess. She has spread out for our delight a banquet that was twenty billion years in the making.” Then writing with the exuberance of some of the Old Testament psalms and prayers found in the Celtic Christian tradition, he describes Earth’s banquet culminating with this conclusion. “God has declared that this banquet is “very good.” And so are we, blessings ourselves, invited to the banquet. God is indeed a good host/hostess, welcoming us to creation and its multiple gifts and blessings.”
I am a grateful recipient of God’s hospitality. The banquet is a feast for all my senses. Just last evening, I tasted and savored a succulent peach. I know the exhilaration of the scent of creosote after a desert rain. I love the caress of the warm sand of a California beach between my toes. Can anything be more beautiful to the eye than the sun sinking below the western horizon painting the sky with color, or hearing the conversation of a mated pair of Bald Eagles?
I have known both emotional and physical shelter from trees. I have been healed by the Spirit on the breath of the wind. I have experienced the mystery of a Celtic “thin place” wherever the fire in my belly connects with a landscape of earth, air and water. And I have been the recipient of human hospitality in love, friendship, ministry and more.
Fox writes, that “the banquet we call the planet Earth, works.” And then here is the punch line. “It works for the benefit of human beings, if we behave toward the Earth as reverent guests.” Humanity, Fox points out, forgot and forgets how to be a good guest.
And then he describes the Incarnation as an expression of God’s hospitality. God played host in the act of creation, but then let go of hosting to become a guest as well. The divine and human guest of the world was and is Jesus. “Jesus”, Fox says “was an excellent guest, a true revelation of God’s guesting side.”
Wow! Think of how generous a guest, Jesus was. No home was too high or too low in terms of status for him. He dined with tax collectors and sinners and with scribes and Pharisees. He drank water from the hand of a Samarian woman, and as a guest allowed a woman to wash his feet with her tears and dry them with her hair. He told many parables about the importance of being an appropriate guest. Jesus showed us that hospitality is not simply setting a table and setting out food; it involves inviting others and serving them. Guests have their role to play in receiving the gifts from others. Ultimately, hospitality is a relationship.
As a follower of Jesus, I can see how important it is to imitate his example of being a guest in the world—being open to receive hospitality and to engage in relationships with other humans where ever and whenever it may be offered. Additionally, I am challenged to understand myself as a guest on the Earth.
What does it mean to behave like a revered guest at the banquet God has created for us on our planet? The word “guest” invites me to consciously tread lightly on the Earth. Being a guest on the Earth has a more intimate feel to it than “being a steward of creation” or “reducing my carbon footprint.” It speaks to me of finding ways to reverence the Earth in the same way that indigenous people do.
Saying a grace before meals is one thing, but what would it be like to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for a piece of raw salmon that I put in my grocery cart? As I chop my lovely summer vegetables for a meal, perhaps I can acknowledge the soil, sunlight, and souls who gifted me with such lovely produce.
And would I be more conscious of my water usage if I thought of myself as a guest every time I stepped into the shower? Speaking of water, what if we revered the water of the earth as we do the water in our church’s baptismal fonts? Would that not help us to be better guests of creation? What if we saw the food of the Earth as having the same holiness as the bread and wine of the Eucharist?
I believe it would raise our awareness of the sacred in all of creation and invite us to become both better guests and wiser hosts and hostesses of our Earth.
In my pursuit of being a reverent guest at God’s abundant banquet, I have expanded my daily spiritual practice of contemplating my framed print of “Earthrise.” Each evening as I retire, I will continue to give thanks for God’s wild and generous hospitality. And each morning, I will remember Jesus and pray to follow his example of being an excellent guest of the world and the planet Earth, our, island home.
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How do we approach the world with gratitude and delight even in the midst of the most challenging situations? What if gratitude is more than an emotion? What can we do to bring more gratitude into our daily lives?
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Tom and I are back from our retreat time. My reading for our days away included part of Norman Wirzba’s wonderful book Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating. I have been reflecting on the meaning of communion and thought and his comment:
Eating is about extending hospitality and making room for others to find life by sharing in our own…. Eating is an invitation to enter into communion and be reconciled with each other. To eat with God at the table is to eat with the aim of healing and celebrating the memberships of creation…. Food is a gift to be gratefully received and generously shared. (11)
Reflecting on this statement has brought back many memories for me of meals shared and friendships forged. Hospitality has become one of the most important aspects of my life and will as many of you know be the central theme for sharing on this blog over the next few months.
I still remember vividly when, several years ago, our good friends Melody and Gil George cooked a wonderful Ethiopian meal for us. The delicious hot and spicy sauces were spooned onto platters spread with layers of the Ethiopian flatbread injera. More mounds of injera dotted the table waiting for us to tear off pieces with our fingers so that we could scoop up the wonderful berbere flavoured wots. By the end of the meal all that remained on the platter were broken pieces of injera soaked with the remains of the sauces.
As we gathered the empty platters I was struck by how much this meal must have resembled meals Jesus ate with his disciples and those other friends of his – the tax collectors and prostitutes. Bread was far more than an adjunct to their meals, it was the very heart of their shared life together. The bread was broken so that people could share together the nourishment they needed to sustain life. And as the bread was broken there was implicit in the act, a sharing of hospitality, of togetherness and of community. Anybody who ate from their table, friend or stranger, rich or poor, young or old would enter into this shared community.
I was suddenly overwhelmed by the feeling that in eating together in this way we had shared in the communion of Christ’s body.
Contrast this to a church I was in recently in which the elements of the Eucharist were passed around in prepackaged sterile containers filled with a wafer of bread and a sip of grape juice. The only experience we shared together were those sounds we made as we ripped the covers off the communion elements. And even those were muted by our embarrassment at disturbing the quiet atmosphere of the moment. No wonder the congregation hurried away afterward with barely a thought for those with whom they had shared the pews.
I wonder how much we limit the celebration of our faith by partaking of the bread and the wine of communion in a sterile environment that disconnects us from the enjoyment of God in the midst of everyday life? For most of us, the celebration of the bread and the wine of the Eucharist no longer draws us into the wonder of communion with Christ and the intimacy of enjoying his presence in all of life’s celebrations and struggles. In fact, often it disconnects us.
I love Sara Miles’ book Take This Bread, in which she too grapples with the meaning of communion in the midst of everyday life. “It wasn’t a private meal,” she reflects.
“The bread on that Table had to be shared with everyone in order for me to really taste it. And sharing it meant I was going to be touching Christ’s body at St Gregory’s… Looking into Christ’s eyes outside the church through the cheery yuppie with the sports car and the veiled Muslim clerk at Walgreens. Listening to Christ’s voice in other churches… I was going to get communion, whether I wanted it or not, with people I didn’t necessarily like.” (97)
For the early church, communion was about celebrating the great feast of life together, not just with each other but also with God who gave this gift of life to all who shared in the meal. Hospitality was central to faith because was a reminder of the fact that in the sharing of food Christ was present in our midst. More than that, as all sat down together the barriers between rich and poor, slave and free, male and female were dissolved. The sharing of meal opened a doorway to the wonders of God’s eternal world in which we will one day all feast together at the great banquet celebration of God.
I think it is time we rediscovered the true hope and celebration of communion as it was understood by early followers of Christ. What a wonderful hope we look forward to every time we share a meal and take time to recognize that Christ sits down at the table with us. As we pass round the food it is his life that we are sharing. It is his life that nourishes our bodies and our spirits, drawing us together into a community of love and mutual care in which once more all barriers are broken down and we share together of the abundance and shalom of God’s kingdom.
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Next Facebook Live – TOMORROW!
Join Christine Sine and Andy Wade for a discussion on Hospitality in the Garden – Tomorrow! Wednesday, August 17th at 9 am PT. Happening live in the Godspace Light Community Group on Facebook – but if you can’t catch the live discussion, you can catch up later on YouTube!
Have you ever considered how incredibly hospitable our Creator is? Today I sit in awe as I consider the incredible story of creation and the generous hospitality our Maker displays. God created a world in which all forms of life, from the smallest microbe to the tallest tree, were meant to live in hospitable harmony together, giving and sharing with each other as God intended. Then God invited humanity to be both the hosts and guests of that world, encouraging all of us to look after this glorious creation in a way that would make everything from the smallest microbe to the tallest tree feel welcomed and comfortable.
In his book A New Heaven and A New Earth Richard Middleton suggests that human stewardship was supposed to transform the whole earth into a fitting place, a hospitable place, not just for humankind to dwell, but also for God to dwell. Can you imagine it? God longs for a beautiful place where all creation flourishes and enjoys abundant provision, a place in which God too feels welcomed and comfortable, able to walk once more in a hospitable relationship with humankind.
To me that is absolutely incredible. Even more incredible is the coming of Jesus into our broken world to make the return of this world possible. The unbelievable gift of Jesus was a gift of amazing hospitality towards all of us. A gift that culminates in the ultimate act of hospitality, the celebration of the great banquet feast of life together, of which we catch a glimpse every time we take communion and embrace a diverse crowd of Jesus followers from every creed and culture and social strata. For the early church, communion was about celebrating the great feast of life together, not just with each other but also with God who gave this gift of life to all who shared in the meal. Hospitality was central to faith because it was a reminder of the fact that in the sharing of food Christ was present in our midst.
Can you imagine what this new and hospitable world of God might look like? In a Yes magazine article last year, Building a Beautiful Climate Future Begins with Imagination, I was introduced to the concept of world building, “…the process of creating an imaginary world for a work of fiction. It’s the practice of taking the ideas in your head, the sensations from your imagination, and allowing people to see what you see, feel what you feel. It’s as much about creating new things as it is about destroying old structures and assumptions. It’s an art, not a science.” Its use should not be confined to fiction.–it’s an inspiring tool to use when we imagine the world God is creating.
We need to live in the hopeful imagination of such a world and the confident anticipation of its coming. Read the poem below, write your own poem or music and imagine what that world of the wild hospitality of God could look like.
Imagine a world of God’s wild hospitality,
With abundant and generous provision for all forms of life.
Imagine a world where people are justly treated
And are free from the burden of pollution.
Imagine a world where all creation flourishes
And all people rejoice in fruitful and fulfilling labour.
Imagine if all children carried the hope
Of a vibrant and healthy future,
In a world restored, renewed and made whole.
Imagine a world in which God once more felt welcomed
And lived in harmony with all created life.
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A contemplative service with music in the spirit of Taize. Carrie Grace Littauer, prayer leader, with music by Kester Limner and Andy Myers.
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“Bring Your Peace” “Wisdom of Saints” Words and music by Kester Limner, shared under the Creative Commons License, Attribution (CC-BY)
“Što Oko Ne Vidje (What No Eye has Seen) – Taizé song” By the Taizé community, copyright 2010, all rights reserved by GIA/Les Presses de Taizé
“Atme In Uns — Taizé song” Copyright and all rights reserved by GIA/Les Presses de Taizé
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Kentucky has just reported the worst flooding in history. The death toll has reached 25 and Governor Andy Beshear said “I am worried we are going to be finding more bodies in weeks to come.” via NY Times and Yahoo News
From the worst forest fires in California’s history to flooding in Las Vegas, people not only in the US but throughout Europe and the majority of the world, are experiencing the most extreme weather in memory. Churches in the United States and in Britain are already setting up shelters to protect their neighbors from the rising heat.
For example, Wesley United Methodist Church in Yakima is providing a large air-conditioned space with restrooms for their neighbors from 9 to 5 six days a week with abundant drinking water.
It is essential that all people of faith join our neighbors and global efforts in both creating safe shelters for those dealing with extreme heat also also helping those dealing with the devastating loss of their homes from these accelerating waves of extreme weather.
The Human Rights Watch has posted an important call for governments, science and all us to consider pursuing in this time of accelerating heat and radical climate change.
“Protecting People from Extreme Heat”
(New York) – “Governments around the world should act to protect people from the current and foreseeable harms of extreme heat fueled by climate change, Human Rights Watch said today.
Large parts of the globe are currently sweltering in record-breaking temperature extremes. Governments have human rights obligations to help people adapt to the impacts of climate change. This includes an assessment of the foreseeable impact of extreme heat, especially for the populations who are the most at-risk, followed by effective plans to mitigate the expected harm. Governments should also rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stop subsidizing fossil fuels to prevent the most catastrophic climate outcomes and protect the rights of at-risk populations.
The world’s leading scientific body on climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has reported that extreme temperatures are increasing on every continent due to human-caused climate change. This past decade was the hottest on record, and each of the past four decades has been hotter than the one before it because of climate change.”
Churches and Christian organizations also need to find innovative ways to work with governmental and scientific organizations by locating new ways:
- To anticipate new expressions of the growing climate crisis in the 2020s & beyond;
- To research innovative ways that we can join governmental and scientific organizations by identifying innovative ways we can enable those we work with to produce creative responses to these growing crises:
- To select those innovative responses that most fully reflect the values of our faith:
- Join others in initiating those responses when possible, that collaborate with governmental and scientific initiatives to address these growing environmental challenges that are placing our planet and future generations at serious risk.
Next Facebook Live!
Join Christine Sine and Andy Wade for a discussion on Hospitality in the Garden – Wednesday, August 17th at 9 am PT. Happening live in the Godspace Light Community Group on Facebook – but if you can’t catch the live discussion, you can catch up later on YouTube!
The Hospitality of God…God invites us to take off our shoes and walk on Holy Ground!
God invites us to go beyond what we believe about ourselves.
God sees us and believes in us and promises to go with us on the journey.
God invites us to notice…
to pay attention…
to do great things with God’s help!
READ EXODUS 3: 1-17 NIV
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.”
5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father,[a] the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have
brought the people out of Egypt, you[b] will worship God on this mountain.”
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to
you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[c] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord,[d] the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’
“This is my name forever,
the name you shall call me from generation to generation.
16 “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. 17 And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’
What is God, the Holy Spirit speaking to you about today?
What do you notice that you haven’t noticed before? What questions come up for you from this passage? You might read this passage in other translations.
- What part of this story do you relate to in your life right now?
- Like Moses, we’ve all been in the wilderness these past few years…how are you feeling ? Are you still in the wilderness? Or coming out of it? Talk to Jesus about this.
- I’ve often wondered how long the bush was on fire before Moses actually noticed it. Why is it hard for us to notice when God is speaking to us? How has God gotten your attention…In the past or lately?
- Moses doesn’t avoid the “sign” ….He goes over to see whet is happening . Do you think he was expecting a new call? Any new things you’re avoiding? Are you willing to receive a NEW CALL a new adventure with Jesus?
- “Who am I to go?…Moses asks God. Who am i to lead anyone?
I AMI AM WHO I AM
I AM is with you!
You are not alone!
You can’t do it… but I AM can! Maybe you’ve been feeling like Moses…Who am I to do it….?
- How does it make you feel to know that the great I AM is with you? How can you be more willing to let I AM be in charge?
- • God shows up in the wilderness….God can speak to us through anything and everything! This week get outside and take time to NOTICE how Jesus speaks to you.
• LISTEN : “SPIRIT I AM ” by Eric Bibb.
• LISTEN and WATCH
Amazing Nature Scenery & Relaxing Music for Stress Relief
FOR FUN …MOSES and the Burning Bush in Animation
• ART SLIDE SHOW: What nature photos would you put in your own “art slide show” ? What has God used to speak to you …like the burning bush for Moses?
God is inviting you to pay attention. To watch for the burning bushes in your life!
When you take off your shoes …Remember that God is inviting you to be with Him on Holy Ground!
Even though you may still be in the wilderness of life. Even though you may be tending someone else’s sheep and given up on the dreams you had once upon a time.
I AM has not given up on YOU! YOU are NOT ALONE! I AM is with YOU!
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