Hospitality, being hospitable.

This word and phrase is known by many people. In Genesis Abraham is met by three men as he was sitting at the opening of his tent. He ran to greet them and bowed low to the ground. He offered them water to wash their feet, to rest under a tree and to fetch food so they might refresh themselves. He went to Sarah and got her to make some cakes, then went to his cattle and got a calf and had his servant prepare the meat for his guests.

In Luke there is the story of Jesus’ visit with Martha and Mary. Martha was the one to make the physical preparations for the hospitality for Jesus and Mary was the one to give her attention to his words. Of course in true human emotions Martha was upset that she was doing all the work and Mary was just sitting and listening to Jesus. And from both stories and others in the Bible and throughout history and even today, I have always said that without the women and the those preparing the physical needs a lot of the events would not have taken place as they did. But I digress.

Being hospitable is another human characteristic. Some people are good at it and others don’t think they are. But I would venture that all of us have the capacity to be hospitable at some level. When you have a large gathering of people or just a few friends gathered there is much preparation and a hope in a nice gathering. We make many plans and prepare the house and food for our guests. Just like with Martha, there is usually a lot of preparation and physical work. And many times those doing the physical preparations may not feel like they get to visit with the guest as much as they would like, just as Martha was feeling. Also there are those who are more comfortable mixing with the guests, as Mary sat and listened to Jesus.I would venture that all of this is part of hospitality. There is the work to do and also the need for connection with others. In Romans 12 it is said “Love in all sincerity, loathing evil and clinging to good. Let love for our brotherhood breed warmth of mutual affection. Give pride of place to one another in esteem. With unflagging energy, in ardor of spirit, serve the Lord. Let hope keep you joyful; in trouble stand firm; persist in prayer. Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and practice hospitality”. But what about hospitality to God.

God is all around us and most of the time we do not recognize this. In today’s world we are bombarded with social media and constant messaging about this or that and what is good and what is evil. Many of us cannot stop and clear our minds to know the presence God among us.

There is an art gallery in St. Louis, Missouri that I like to visit called the Pulitzer Art Foundation. They don’t have a permanent collection but have temporary art installations. It is mostly modern and cutting edge art. A few years ago they had a showing by an Iranian artist named Zarina. Her work was very simple but thought provoking. There were some prints labeled “Dark Nights”. They appeared to be black solid image, but upon looking at them they were the night sky. She had printed on laminated BFK white paper, dyed with Sumi ink, covered with black obsidian. It had the effect of a 3D night sky and was mesmerizing. And there was another art piece that was much larger and a woven textile hanging. It appeared to be just a golden colored fabric, but in standing and looking it felt as though I was in the presence of God. I may have stood looking at it for 30 minutes. This may sound a bit crazy but as I say, God is all around us and we just have to be open to feeling that presence. Would this be hospitality to God? I would think so. It is the same as Mary listening to Jesus. I know we all have the same capacity to experience this presence of God and many of you have. There are the usual experiences of seeing an amazing sunset, a beautiful flower, a smile of a child.

This is our way of knowing that God is present in our lives. Many say that our world is in turmoil and strife and this is true. But in my own life, just knowing that I can actually know that God is around me helps to get through the days. I am not saying that all will be happy and good if we have this understanding. There will be good times and trials in all of our lives. Some of my friends are atheists and they ask me why I believe in something I cannot physically prove. I only answer that although it is faith I know that everything around me is proof of divinity or a divine presence.

Another favorite thing of mine is all the exploration with NASA and the space probes. They have shown images of places I had only dreamed about, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, etc.

When I see these images I cannot help but wonder at the creation of all around us. It is only natural for me to give back to God for his hospitality to me.

There is a simple exercise I try to do most days. I had read this in a book on this very topic of living with God. When I get up in the morning and look in the mirror I will thank God for being with me and know that his divinity is part of me. This may sound a bit weird but it actually helps to ground and center me through me day. This is just an example of something all of us can do. As we just sang

“Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart, Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art, Thou my best thought, by day or by night, Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light”

The Lord be with you. Let us pray.

God, We humble ourselves before you and welcome you in our lives even though you are our creator and are with us always. Let us know your presence with us and all of the world. Give us strength to face our trials and let us see you in our everyday lives. Amen