Sunday, September 28, 2008

Extravagant Welcome

I sit here pecking away at my laptop, easy-chair turned to face the view. Erratic stone-walled patch-work rolls down to the Irish Sea. Brilliant greens mix with the darker, duskier colors of waning heather and gorse.

In this place, I have permission to be quiet. It’s okay to lie in late, or to rise early to read, pray and drink coffee behind closed door until I feel ready for conversation. My room invites me to work or relax, with coffee pot, fruit bowl, ample lamps, music, books and candles. The garden and the hills beckon, but so does the fireplace in the living room. Meals are regular and simple, but made celebratory with views, candlelight and gentle companions.

Luke talked this morning about a dinner at Simon’s house.
[1] You know, Simon the Pharisee, that Simon. The meal was proceeding well, and then this WOMAN arrived. Not on the guest list, and with her reputation, not likely to be. We’ve had some odd interruptions at our house, but never yet has a street person wandered in sobbing to pour sweet-smelling ointment over a guest’s feet and rub it in with her hair!

As Luke unfolded his story, I noticed Jesus’ comments about the welcome He’d received at Simon’s house. Simon is all worried about reputation, and feeling critical of Jesus, his invited guest. Jesus was experiencing something else entirely:

“Do you SEE this woman, Simon? I come into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”

Truth is, Simon DIDN’T see her. He only saw a disruption, a sinner. Seems he didn’t really see Jesus, either. Certainly not for who Jesus was, but not even as a “real” houseguest. No water to wash His feet, not even that basic courtesy. No double-checked kiss of warm welcome, as we give and receive all the time in the Middle East. No anointing to bless his Guest and set His coming apart as something special.

Over 25 years Ken and Eva Needham and Curt and I have swapped hospitality, so far in Alaska, England, Scotland, Ireland, UAE and Turkey. I love being in their home. They see Jesus, and they see me. Their various homes have all celebrated creation’s beauty, and been rich in thought life, and deeply prayerful listening—places designed with guests in mind. Masters at balancing their own work and solitude with attending to their guests, their peace is contagious. Patterns to imitate, people to learn from.

We saw a stranger yesterday.
We put food in the eating place,
Drink in the drinking place,
Music in the listening place
And in the sacred name of the Triune God
He blessed us and our house
Our cattle and our dear ones.
As the lark says in her song:
Oft, oft, oft goes the Christ in the stranger’s guise.
(Unknown author)

[1] Luke 7:36-50

1 comment:

KathyB. said...

Thank-you so much for your posts.What a touching example of hospitality you wrote about. My husband and I count it a privilege to offer hospitality. Hospitality offered in Jesus' name and example is our desire .

I read most of your last posts, and all I can say is THANK-YOU ! In His Name, the Name of our Savior and reason for living and life !