This past Saturday, we had a chance to sit on the other side of the table. Every Wednesday, the church hosts a hot meal for some of the folks in the community. Some are between homes. Some are battling with substance abuse. Some are more on the upswing than not. All of them are becoming our friends.
But on Saturday, something special happened. Our friends hosted the lunch, and the church members got to be the guests. Here are some of the comments (recorded by Hope).
From church members:
- I need the recipe for this elk stew.
- I need to sign up to make a dinner.
- What an amazing day!
- It’s fun talking to John!
- That was a very uplifting day!
- I’m so glad that you started this ministry!
- John’s the boss, ask him!
From the guys:
- I’ll get my cane! (John, being the boss…)
- This is the leanest meat I’ve ever seen!
- What can I do?
- This fellowship is important to us, it keeps us out of trouble!
- What are you guys doing in here? It’s your day off!
- I don’t usually hang out around churches, but you guys are exceptional!
- What a wonderful day!
- I’m so happy!
- I’m so relieved!
- Your kitchen is AMAZING!
- Let’s do this again!
- That went so well!
- Claude! Get back here! (At picture time…)
So what’s going on here? When we set out to join God in what he is up to in the world around us, we might start out wanting to help the poor, or feed the homeless, or reach out to the underprivileged, or rehabilitate addicts.
Poor. Homeless. Underprivileged. Addicts. These are words to describe kinds of people. But they are not the right names for any person we end up meeting at the table. We set out to help a certain category. We end up gaining real friends who don’t fit into any of our categories and who are every bit as complicated and nuanced as we are. We set out to be hospitable to those on the margins, and end up as guests at the table with James and John and the rest.
…sounds like another meal I once read about…
Something else is going on. Someone else is at the table. A homeless, blue collar worker, accused of several crimes, and of being a drunk. He hung out with a questionable group of tradesmen, traitors, and anarchists. He loved his friends fiercely, and never backed down from anything. If we are Christians, we bear his name, and worship him as both Lord and Saviour. And if we look hard enough we can see him in the faces of these men and women across the table. Sometimes we don’t have to look that hard.
In ministry, we tend to think our goal is to bring people to Jesus or bring Jesus to people. But in Matthew 25, Jesus says that whatever we do to ‘the least of these’ we do to him. It’s funny when you think about it like that. We set out to be hospitable to the idea of a homeless person. Instead, gain friends who are real people. We set out to give and receive hospitality with these friends and instead find that Jesus is the recipient of our hospitality–and that he returns it to us through those same friends.