Practicing Radical Hospitality means we offer the absolute utmost of ourselves, our creativity, and our abilities to offer the gracious invitation and welcome of Christ to others. We pray, plan, and work to invite others to help them feel welcome and to support them in their spiritual journey.
Since I arrived in Laramie almost 4 years ago, I have attended a breakfast with a small group of men at the local Village Inn. We come to discuss a spiritual book we are reading together (during Lent, the Forty Days of Fruitful Living by Robert Schnase), talk about Laramie events and our lives, and generally encourage one another in our daily faith walk.
We arrive around 7 am (I’m usually late). Gary orders two poached eggs and cottage cheese. Dean and I are a little more extravagant; French toast for us. Harold and Larry just have coffee. Only we never really have to order. It’s already taken care of. For the last year or more, we have had one waitress, Michelle, who always goes beyond the normal expectations. She has memorized our orders (we are very predictable), knows our names, even knows what cars we drive and watches for us every Wednesday morning so that by the time I get my coat off and sit down, my small orange juice and hot tea with extra honey are practically waiting for me. She greets us as friends, attends to our needs with diligence and care, and gives us space when it is needed. Every week, Michelle makes an ordinary breakfast meeting just a little more special.
In his many works on the five practices of fruitful congregations, Robert Schnase describes radical hospitality as one of the essential practices of congregations who want to grow and bear fruit for Christ’s kingdom. Such hospitality goes beyond shallow greetings and cursory gestures toward the guest. It is a deep, abiding, focus on the needs of the guest as we welcome them into our church and nurture their growth in faith.
Following Jesus’ example of gathering people into the Body of Christ, inviting them to the banquet of God’s gracious love requires intentional focus on those outside the community of faith. Jesus’ example of hospitality demands an unceasingly invitational posture that we carry with us into our world of work and leisure and into our practice of neighborliness and community service.
When I think of what radical hospitality should be like within our church walls, my mind returns to that weekly breakfast meeting at the local Village Inn and Michelle’s service to us. She does her job welcoming us and attending to our needs. But it is more. Her radical hospitality is shown in the small but important extra details… being ready before we ask, knowing who we are by name, taking the time to stop and say a few words. Her attitude is authentic; she is not doing this to get a bigger tip. She honestly wants to welcome us and serve us to the best of her ability. She makes the extra effort because she wants our experience each Wednesday morning to be a good one.
It is Michelle’s spirit of hospitality that I want in my church. And I hope her attitude is one we can take outside of our church walls as well. I pray that I can have such a spirit in every relationship, but especially with those whom Christ is inviting through me to a new relationship with Him. I want us to offer Christ with the same generous, authentic, hospitality that Michelle offers me breakfast every Wednesday morning. Her example reminds me that radical hospitality doesn’t have to be radically hard. It is often the simple gestures that make a difference when offered genuinely. It is attentiveness to the other that makes hospitality truly radical.
Yesterday, like every Wednesday, we arrived for our breakfast. Only something was different. There was a small card on the table waiting for us alongside my hot tea with extra honey. After we had arrived, Michelle told us she was leaving her position at Village Inn. In the envelope was a thank you card. She was actually thanking us for allowing her to serve us these many Wednesdays. Thank you, Michelle, for your service to us. And thank you for the example of true, authentic, hospitality.
Thank you, God, for servant-friends like Michelle who give us glimpses of the hospitality You offer us as You invite us into Your life and kingdom through Christ our Lord. May we extend that same hospitality to others in Jesus’ name. Amen.