People say I have the gift of hospitality, but I once put a cup of salt, instead of teaspoon of salt, into a batch of lasagna so clearly it can’t be about gourmet cooking. I also once totally forgot that we had invited six people for dinner, so hospitality apparently doesn’t hinge on attention to details. Instead, I would agree with someone I heard recently who said, “Hospitality is inviting heaven into the house”.
Actually I’d expand that to say, “Hospitality is inviting heaven into the house…the bus, the office…the coffee shop…the airplane…the parking lot.” And I know many people who do that much better than I do.
Awhile back, John told a story in a sermon about a mentor of ours. For a season, Gordon and Gail MacDonald were pastoring in New York City. They befriended some city bus drivers who were Christ-followers, but felt they didn’t have an environment for ministry. Gordon pushed back and suggested:
“Why don’t you start up your buses each morning and, while the engine is warming, walk down the aisle of the bus and shout, ‘In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, I declare this bus to be a sanctuary where passengers will experience something of the love of Christ through me.’ You can be a pastor in your own sanctuary.”
The bus drivers took his suggestion and experienced a transformation of perspective on their everyday life. Suddenly their buses were a safe place where they were aware God was present and welcoming.
The next morning, Monday, when John and I walked into Starbucks, Libby, our friend and barista smiled big and said “Welcome to my sanctuary!!” And it IS, because Libby welcomes people with the eyes of Jesus.
A few weeks ago I was on a flight, sitting next to a man with Dementia who lost his upper dentures during the flight and insisted that they were in one of the seat pockets. I believe the flight attendant who patiently, calmly searched each seat pocket for this confused guy’s dentures had the gift of hospitality. Jesus would have done that. She brought a bit of heaven into a long flight. This elderly gentleman felt welcomed and cared for, teeth or no teeth.
A friend of ours for years has directed traffic at our church. Rain, snow, sun. He’s the most welcoming guy I know. Smiling, gracious, the first face people see when they enter our parking lot. A slice of heaven in the parking lot.
Then there’s my friend who recently gutted her condo and remodeled. When the walls were stripped, before new paneling and paint she took colored markers and wrote scripture and prayers all over the walls along with encouraging notes to the workmen. She was saying, “Welcome to my sanctuary.”
Right now, we are traveling in the Middle East – a place known for both hospitality and violence. What if Arab and Israeli, Muslim and Jew alike could look each other in the eye and, with open arms, say “Welcome to my sanctuary”?
Welcome, Jesus. May each place we set our feet today be a sanctuary, a piece of heaven on earth.
Where is your sanctuary today?