On Sunday, we welcome another group of students into our community. It is a day to which many of us have become accustomed. But what makes this day a little different to previous years is that we are extending our welcome to these young people during a teaching series at KBC on the hospitality of Jesus.
This theme, I think, is particularly significant for this day. Our residents will be given a roof over their head, a bed to sleep on and three meals each day. But at KSR, we aim to do something more than provide the basics. More than mere accommodation, we aim to offer hospitality. There is, I think, a difference. To extend hospitality is to welcome people into your home, your family, and to share these things with them. It is to make them part of your family, at least for the time they are with you. It can be, I believe, an act of grace.
Kate Mildenhall’s 2016 book of fiction, Skylarking, is based on the lives of the families who work at a lighthouse on a Victorian cape during the colonial era. The protagonist and narrator, Kate Gilbert, is the daughter of the head lighthouse keeper. In the story, she speaks with great fondness of the annual Christmas meal in which the rough, socially outcast, and not always convivial, workers from around the cape come together to enjoy a lovingly prepared and lavish meal. This is not merely a meal with family and friends, but involves the welcoming in of “outsiders”.
Hospitality in the bible is most closely associated with the idea of showing love to, and welcoming, the stranger – even one’s enemies. It is an act of reconciliation and of grace. And, to show hospitality so often involves the preparation and offer of food. In many ways, notions of hospitality in the bible foreshadow the ultimate symbol and act of grace. Jesus, at the Last Supper, tells his disciples to continue the tradition of this meal as a reminder of Jesus’ own welcoming of all creation – friends and foes – into his “home”. The Eucharist – or Communion – is a participation in God’s hospitality.
The passage for Sunday’s services might appear a little odd. It does not seem to be about the hospitality of Jesus so much as that of Simon’s mother-in-law. But if the hospitality of Jesus is to “heal” humanity by reconciling all people to God, and if the call of those who have experienced this healing and reconciliation is to ‘go and do likewise’, then perhaps this little story in Luke actually reveals something of what it means for the church to participate with Jesus in welcoming others into our “family”.
As I see it, this is the very ministry of the Res. We exist to welcome people, no matter their faith or cultural backgrounds, into our Christian home. In sharing food and life together, we hope that our residents experience something of the hospitality of God who has welcomed all to eat at his table of grace.
Stephen & Anouchka Chatelier