Last night I drove out to the home of a couple who graciously invited me to sing a concert in their back yard almost a year ago exactly.
They have a beautiful garden.
It's full of flowers and fruit and vegetables. It's taller than I am.
I was there to teach a dulcimer lesson.
We spent about 45 minutes doing that and then another 20 sitting in the living room, talking.
Then we went to the table.
They shared a meal with me from their own garden. And then they sent me home with fresh vegetables for my family.
I haven't been so relaxed and peaceful in months. The act of being openly invited to share in somebody's meal ritual is sacred.
What if the Earth were God's table? God's living room?
God has a love of beauty - you can see it everywhere. Have you ever looked at the way the sun comes up in the summer - it's humid and the air is almost thick . . . and the sun swims up through the haze. The invisible air becomes visible for just a few minutes.
I love the song "This is My Father's World" and I keep one line in particular close to my heart - "In the rustling grass, I hear Him pass. He speaks to me everywhere."
Jesus was a hospitable man while he walked the Earth. Even more than that - Jesus inspired hospitality where there had been none before.
And God is a hospitable God. Here we are, sharing a table with God anytime that we eat. Here we are, walking in the garden wherever we go.
Every time that somebody chooses to share a table with me, I think about the fact that God is hospitable. Even to me.
We are a world of wounded children. I'm only 26 years old. I don't have very many stories of my own yet. But I work in a position that causes people to share their stories with me. And I've heard such stories . . . stories that repeatedly confirm our need for human hospitality in the world. We're starving for it.
Stories about how people or a person in a faith community caused somebody to feel that they shouldn't speak up anymore.
Stories about people being afraid to tell the truth because they fear being rejected by "the Church."
Stories to explain, "why I choose not to try to be involved that way anymore."
Stories like this beg for compassion and hospitality . . . . but in our pride we often deny it. Or in the middle of our own noise, we can't hear it.
The truth is: People don't usually come right out and say, "I'm starving and alone. Please make a place for me at the table!" - That sounds like begging and most of us haven't yet learned that we're ragamuffins. Most of us haven't understood that there is zero shame in saying that we're starved . . . so instead of saying "I'm starving," we say, "I'm not satisfied." and our story flows out from dissatisfaction . . .
I've learned an important lesson about serving people and hearing their stories.
Sometimes a person will come to me with a concern - something they hope I can solve . . . the music has been too loud or too soft . . . too fast or too slow. They might feel worried that the culture of the worship happening on Sundays is changing too fast or becoming foreign. They are longing for a tune that reminds them of home. It means comfort to them. They miss it so much. They are afraid it's been forgotten by the community. The list goes on . . . and I listen to it. That's important. We have to hear each other in order to be hospitable.
How do we know which way to set the table for our guests if we haven't heard a word they've said?
Very often, the problem is not the tune or the volume . . . often it's got much more to do with a sense of belonging - a sense of home and acceptance. Oh, but a person has to be listening hard and paying close attention to see that in another person's eyes.
When you work with music the way I do, you set your table with melody and harmony. Food for people's hearts. And when my intention is to serve other people - loving them in the name of God - I have to remember to lay a place for them at the table . . . how can I do that? This is always my question in ministry - How can I do a better job of opening the table for them?
How can YOU set a table for the world?
What language do you speak?
Are you creative?
Will you dance and create a space for other people to dance?
Will you teach other people how to hear and communicate? And will you set the table that way?
Will you coach baseball and set the table that way?
Will you balance people's books and teach them how to live a healthier life and set the table that way?
I spent nearly 4 hours at the dentist's office today and they were so gracious and kind that I felt comfortable and accepted - even as they reached across me passing huge needles and drills to each other!!!
There is no limit to the ways you can set a table of hospitality in this world.
You can be a host to somebody else on behalf of God. How wonderful is that??? I don't even have a song today. This topic is too much for music. It's just too good. Think on it.
Peace and Goodness.