For the past decade, a key word in the United Church of Christ has been hospitality. Not just any old hospitality. Extravagant hospitality. Lavish welcome. We were encouraged to create space that welcomed all…”no matter who they are or where they are on life’s journey.” I have to say I have been blessed to be part of two congregations that took this call seriously. They do lavish extravagant hospitality on ALL who enter. If that is not enough, a table is often set after worship for people to meet and greet. And in many cases, newer faces are greeted.
But that is just the beginning
What happens when new faces choose to move in?
If I were to be assessing myself as part of the church, I would say I have some room to grow in this area. I would say that we as a community have room to grow. Welcome is one thing. Housing. Housing becomes tricky. That means I might need to move some of the belongings that I have carefully collected. It might mean a change in style and decoration. It might even mean that I need to get rid of some of these belongings to make room for a few possessions for the person moving in. Extravagant housing requires a bit more change on my part than extravagant welcome. I can do extravagant welcome and go home the same person. I can do extravagant housing and not be changed. Not be formed and informed by the process. Like a new child entering the family, extravagant housing means the whole family cannot be the same. Sibling rivalry isn’t just likely to ensue. It’s to be expected. It’s what we do with it that matters.
What happens when new faces choose to move in and need harbor?
At a first read, this notion of safe harbor is romantic and ideal. What else are we here for but to welcome the outcast and provide safe harbor. Again, that is until the practice begins. Harbor suggests that people will indeed move in but not be ready or able to begin contributing the home. I will need to change. And make room. And maybe get rid of belongings. And change. But I won’t get to share the load. My chores will increase and maybe even change. There might be a need to completely repurpose a room. Or learn new styles of cooking. But I won’t get the advantage of extra hands. At least not right away or not in the way I think.
Extravagant harbor doesn’t seem fair at all.
And it isn’t.
I don’t think it is supposed to be. For all of Jesus’ emphasis on equality, he does not seem to get caught up on whether it’s fair. A disciples life is rarely easy. Or fair. Repeatedly we are instructed to scatter our abundance, to share our talents–even if it is only one, and if all else fails, give away all our possessions and follow. None of these seem fair. They are not fair.
That’s what it means to be part of God’s realm and to say yes.
We are told the reward will be an abundance–the likes of which I believe we can hardly imagine.
What might a summer of shifting to extravagant housing and harbor look like?
Imagine the harvest.