Be Present At My Table: An Invitational Challenge - page2


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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

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  Risk Analysis


Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. (Ecclesiastes 11:1)

  Accommodating my dad in his pastoral role, my mom was an inveterate hostess, logging, for tax purposes, up to six hundred servings a year. Down-home cooking, rarely more venturesome than mustard and Worcestershire. But guests appreciated her efforts—mostly.
  One weekend, hosting strangers interviewing for a church job, she laid out a roast turkey dinner with mashed potatoes, bread stuffing, and gravy. Standard company fare. Right fine in my view, a high school senior. But as Mom washed the dishes, she succinctly summarized the dinner. “That didn’t work.”
  “What do you mean?”
  “They didn’t like it. They didn’t appreciate it. It was a flop.”
 My affirmations didn’t penetrate her negative assessment.
 Several years later she again felt disrespected, when only one couple came to a New Year’s open house—an afternoon buffet set out for fifty.
 It’s easier to write about my mother’s failures than my own. The New Year’s Eve party for twenty-something peers who claimed they didn’t like parties. (Did I fall asleep watching TV at my own do?) The invitations refused, some by way of Miss Manners’s practiced approach, “You are so kind, but…” and some less adroitly. The no-shows or apologies that someone forgot. The meals or desserts that I’ve chosen to forget or rosily gloss over.
 Entertaining—extending an invitation, say nothing of opening the door to an unbidden neighbor—is a risk. Every time. Even if hospitality is perceived to be one’s spiritual gift.
 An unexpended biblical find—buried under the cast-your-bread-upon-the-waters topic sentence of Ecclesiastes 11—helps to refocus my vision. “In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good” (v. 6). Be generous, the wisdom writer says, but understand the realities: some efforts “prosper” and some don’t. Sometimes the food and the conversation “work,” sometimes neither. Sometimes we feel affirmed; sometimes we don’t. Sometimes the bread cast upon the water becomes a free-floating memory for God to redeem further down the river of time.
 God, give us courage braced with wisdom as we reach out beyond ourselves and offer sustenance for table guests. 


 Reprinted from Room at My Table: Preparing Heart and Home for Christian Hospitality by Evelyn Bence. Copyright © 2014. Used by permission of Upper Room Books. For more information, visit

  Note: 1. All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version.


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Evelyn Bence is author of several books, including Room at My Table: Preparing Heart and Home for Christian Hospitality and Mary’s Journal, winner of a Christianity Today critic’s award.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE:  Knowing & Doing is published by C.S. Lewis Institute; 8001 Braddock Road, Suite 301; Springfield, VA 22151. Portions of the publication may be reproduced for noncommercial, local church or ministry use without prior permission. Electronic copies of the PDF files may be duplicated and transmitted via e-mail for personal and church use. Articles may not be modified without prior written permission of the Institute. For questions, contact the Institute: 703.914.5602 or email us.


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