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.