Christians and Hospitality, Part One

I was struggling along with this topic – I know what it is, but how do I define it? – when I read this over at Sustainable Traditions  by Ricci Kilmer – http://sustainabletraditions.com/2010/07/justice-at-christs-table. Ricci is asking the same questions we all are.

Our hospitality as Christians (little Christs) is more than a shared meal, a donation to the soup kitchen or volunteer work at the food bank, and it is even more than the hospitality of good sustainable practice in caring for the earth. It’s all about that, but all that is as straw if we do not start from the basic act of hospitality – the Lord’s Supper.

Most of us experience the Eucharist (the thank offering) as a formal rite. We listen to the priest/minister, the actions are taken, the words said, the congregants march forward and kneel or stand (or the bits are passed along the pew) and we get a mere taste of thin wafer and a sip of possibly not very good wine.

These seems as hospitable as receiving a measles vaccine in the school cafeteria.

Before we get into a bunch of liturgical/theological debates: The words of institution must be said. Those who receive it must be baptized – washed clean for the feast. (How these are done, by whom and when is not part of this discussion.) We are there to share this feast with Jesus Christ and all the faithful everywhere and throughout time. It does take some preparation.

Have you ever experienced this? People have gathered for an evening meal. They are friends, family, even strangers who have joined the others on a moment’s invitation. The dishes are served, wine is poured, conversation is general and happy. The last dish is taken from the cloth, with just the basket of bread and the bottle of wine remaining. And someone stands up – the householder, his wife, a guest – and says to all, “In the night in which He died, Our Lord Jesus Christ took bread…” and the rest of that story is told. The bread is passed from the common loaf (real bread, baked that day) and the cup of wine is passed hand to hand, a full cup that is renewed as needed (real wine, local, organic, fit to drink.) Everyone says together, “Maranatha, Lord Jesus, come.”

That’s Christian hospitality.

In it we not only re-enact and take part in the first Great Feast, but we enter and remain in His Kingdom, sustained by food, prayer and mutual love in Him.

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6 thoughts on “Christians and Hospitality, Part One

    • I do the same after my turn at the altar rail. I’d prefer there was no music or distraction so I can really focus on the presence of God.

  1. Magdalena,

    The closest I have come to this occured when I participated in a Friday Night dinner followed by table-communion ten years ago now. Even so, this was conducted within the hall of the church I was invited to, by adherrents of the denomination; no outsiders, indeed, the atmosphere was abuz with comments like, ‘I imagine this is what it will be like when we are the persecuted church during the ‘time of trouble, all living together tucked up in the mountains’. Apart from this slice of denominational paranoia, the meal was simple; good soup, decent bread, followed by the passing around of lebanese bread (each individual breaking off a portion for themselves) and grapejuice (my experience was with the denomination whom I have spoken of before, in which alcohol consumption of any type is equated with certain eternal death).

    With a few sensible modifications, this could be translated to the home table; however, I believe many would be very cautious to say the least to officiate Eucharist themselves out of a sense of somehow treading upon sacred ground on which a minister alone is permitted to step (be they priest, deacon or elder). In concert with this article, there may well be space for a few thoughts concerning the opening up of eucharistic celebration re differing location, officiant, participants etc.

    Oh how I would love to do this; tragically, my family would likely not understand, and, perhaps even react with some hostility (I am the only Christian). However, I believe Eucharist celebrated in this way would be profoundly powerful, bringing Christ’s sacrifice and salvation home to all.

    • Whenever we have tried to do this in a church, it becomes just another potluck because the priest will insist that the eucharistic rite has to be at the altar, fully vested, etc etc. I don’t know about lay presidency – it’s a touchy subject. I was just trying to keep this outside of denominational lines for the moment. Most churches license someone for the rites, whether they are priests or elders (means the same).

  2. Have you read “Jesus and the Eucharist” by Tad Guzie? One of the best I’ve ever read. It makes one ponder the meaning of all meals–and how they become holy.

    Peace be with you.

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