For years and years, I've dismissed myself from believing I have "the gift of hospitality." I figured that if I couldn't cook like my aunt, and if hosting a dinner party stressed me out, I wasn't cut out for it.
And it's no wonder I thought that.
Yesterday, I spent thirty minutes tracking with Ina Garten as she and her friend Matthew showed hospitality to their friends, Frank and Steven. Frank and Steven were coming home from a long vacation in England and their poor fridge was empty. So, Ina decided to stock it with white truffle mac n' cheese, lemon custard and fresh bread with cinnamon honey butter. Matthew took on the aesthetic challenge and set their table with fresh cut flowers, apples and placed firewood in the hearth.
It was a lovely homecoming.
Ina ended the segment with a cheesy, "Yes! Mission accomplished!" and a wink to the camera when her friends confirmed, by text, that they enjoyed the surprise.
That's what I've believed, this whole time, that hospitality is all about.
Perfectly executed recipes hosted in a beautiful home.
And then I read this this morning:
"Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door. She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen."
Remember Sodom and Gomorrah? They're the cliche for evil in the Bible, the icon synonymous with judgment and seriously rousing the wrath of God. We conservative Republicans are quick to credit Sodom's infamous judgment with her reputation of homosexual behavior, but God clearly spells out her sins in this text:
Sodom was not biblically hospitable.
I'm sure there were some serious parties in Sodom, maybe no white truffle mac n' cheese, but I'd bet the house on filet mignon and decent wine. God's bone to pick was that the parties were had and the lifestyles were lived out in total ignorance of the needy.
So, I can master Bobby Flay's flank steak and I can learn how to use the recently-acquired pasta attachment to my Kitchen Aid mixer, and I can even invite some people over to (try to) enjoy the results, but if I am
too proud to hang out with those outside of my socio-economic status,
gluttonous in that a dinner party is focused on the food and not the relationships,
and too lazy to meet the real, physical needs of my neighbors,
I am not being biblically hospitable.
I'm beginning to think that the hospitality God calls me to has less to do with my perfectly executed productions and more with meeting needs. Even Jesus exhorted his disciples (you can read it here) to throw dinner parties for the needy and the rejects of society; not just for friends.
I don't know what that looks like in my life.
But I'm going to explore it. And I'm going to do something about it.
I want to learn what it means to be biblically hospitable--the radical, Jesus-loving, un-cooking-show kind of way.