Be Present At My Table: An Invitational Challenge - page1


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From the Fall 2015 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Be Present at My Table: An Invitational Challenge

An Excerpt from Room at My Table: Preparing Heart and Home for Christian Hospitality

by Evelyn Bence


ospitality. Though the word’s cordial welcome encompasses more than culinary service, my book focuses on the host’s role of feeding people, particularly those outside the immediate family circle with its attendant obligations.
  Hospitality has been characterized as a gift, even a spiritual gift, though it is not listed as such in the New Testament. There’s no mistaking that some people have natural abilities in the kitchen, in the organizational sphere, in the conversational corner. That’s why it’s so tempting to avoid responsibility: hospitality, it’s not my gift.
  But the Bible calls for everyone to give it a try: “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality,” writes Paul (Rom. 12:13).1 Other Epistle writers add qualifying phrases: “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Pet. 4:9). And “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers” (Heb. 13:2).
  You may be a high-profile hostess with a sixty-inch range. I’m not, never have been. I have a bare-bones galley kitchen, not even a dishwasher. I have people over. I make it work.
  Maybe your kitchen isn’t your handicap, but it’s easy for you to name another: your spouse or children, your workload; limited parking, insufficient seating. Most anyone can find a reason for not reaching out …
  But these fifty-two meditations are not about should. They don’t present a theology or scriptural study of biblical hospitality. Nor would you find them in Better Homes and Gardens. Drawing on my own experiences—the successes as well as the failures—I’ve gone for encouragement. Dip in. Here’s what I hope you’ll find:
  For hosts known for their hospitable grace and discerning culinary taste, if not skill—encouragement, camaraderie, invigoration.
  For fledglings curious or envious of others who exhibit hospitable grace and culinary skill—in story form, an inspirational primer for taking a first step toward a personal success.
  For guests anticipating or grateful for hospitable grace and culinary taste and sneaking a preview—an appropriate, nicely packaged gift.
 For nostalgics pining for the good old days when people knew something about hospitality and grace—a smidge of humor and a handful of hope that the art of hospitality hasn’t been lost, as some claim.
 For people hungry for relationships grounded in real time—an invitation to reach out and enjoy face-to-face connections: table talk.
 If you read these pieces straight through, you might think that I welcome guests every weekend, which is hardly the case. This material is a condensation of decades’ worth of hospitable culinary opportunities, presented with some names changed and a few details disguised.
 “Come and eat. Here, drink something.” The universal invitation never loses its potential. A parent speaking to a toddler. A friend suggesting lunch. A neighbor coaxing a grieving widow. A colleague hosting a barbeque or buffet. The invitation’s appeal is rooted deep in our humanity; we are, after all, newly needy—hungry and thirsty—every day. And in our tradition: King David welcoming Saul’s grandson to his table like one of his own; Jesus cooking breakfast for His disciples; and the writer of the last biblical chapter beckoning the thirsty to come to the water of life.
 Some contemporary invitations are vicarious and virtual, broadcast by smiling chefs talking to cameras in studios. But the best invitations are real and sincere: I’d be honored for you to sit at my table.

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