A TWIN TALE OF HOSPITALITY -
When I was in High School, I made new friends when I joined the Speech Team and Thespians. A few of them were, dare I say it, Lutherans! This was way back in the 1970's. Since my home church was small and had no youth group, I was invited to attend some of the Lutheran youth events. And I went because they were my friends, and because I longed to grow in my faith, and it was a whole lot of fun! They didn't seem to mind a Presbyterian in their midst.
Every year, this Lutheran youth group went on a 3 day retreat between Christmas and New Year's to Lake Geneva, WI. At the end of each retreat was a worship service that included communion. Bound together in the love and faith of Jesus Christ our Lord, we left blessed and graced. One year the Lutheran pastor asked me to bring a message for our closing communion worship service. I felt welcomed, a part of and belonged to this group of faithful believers and my friends. Never once did it seem to cross anyone's mind that perhaps, as a Presbyterian, I shouldn't be included, or I shouldn't commune with them.
Years later, I was invited to an acquaintance's ordination at his home town in Ohio. He was being ordained a Lutheran minister and by a quirk of God's design, he eventually became my husband. I went with a Presbyterian couple through whom my future husband and I met. The worship service included Holy Communion. As people in the pews went forward for communion, they handed in little cards to the usher. We had no such cards nor did we realize they were in the pews. My Presbyterian frinds and I sat there in the pew suddenly feeling that we were not invited to the Table. We were left out and excluded. I have never felt so unwelcome in my life or that the Lord's table was closed to me. I had never experienced being shut out from communing. Only after the majority of the people communed, did the pastor realize that there were visitors who weren't Lutheran, and he, then invited us, 'others' to partake. I was so hurt that I didn't go forward.
Hospitality has been defined as when strangers enter welcomed and leave feeling they have been in the company of friends.
Obviously, I experienced true hospitality at the table of the Lutheran youth group and didn't experience it at the table of my husband's ordination service.
I am thankful and grateful for our Presbyterian understanding that the Lord's table is indeed, the Lord's table, not ours, not the church's. It is the Lord who is host and invites all who believe and trust in Him to find welcome there and leave the table feeling they have been in the company of the greatest Friend and friends by faith. The table of our Lord is an open table extending hospitality to all the gathered.
As we celebrate World Communion Sunday, we are reminded that Christ our Lord welcomes us all to His table. Though our bread, language, skin color and dress differ, though we may be young or old, rich or poor, Jesus welcomes us to Him and offers Himself in love in the bread and the cup for our life and life together. What greater hospitality can we ever know or experience? What better hospitality can we offer to others than the love of Jesus our Lord, a place to belong, to be included and a part of? May we and all who step through our doors be welcomed and leave feeling that we have been in the company of friends.