Hospitality

Preaching and Worship Resources about Hospitality

A species of kindness and therefore of love, hospitality is the practice of making room for others and then helping them to flourish in the room you have made.

In Scripture

Abraham and the Three Men "The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, `My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on — since you have come to your servant.' So they said, `Do as you have said.'" (Gen. 18:1-5).

"You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God" (Lev. 19:10).

In the Presence of My Enemies "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows" (Ps. 23:5).

"Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them . . . ?" (Is. 58:6-7).

The Wedding Banquet "`Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.' Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests" (Matt. 22:9-10).

I Was Hungry and You Gave Me Food "Then the king will say to those at his right hand, `Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me'" (Matt. 25:34-36).

The Lord's Supper "While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, `Take; this is my body.' Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, `This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God'" (Mark 14:22-25).

The Good Samaritan "But a Samaritan while traveling came near [the assault victim]; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, `Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend'" (Luke 10:33-35).

Having Breakfast with the Lord "Jesus said to them, `Come and have breakfast.' Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, `Who are you?' because they knew it was the Lord" (John 21:12).

Hospitality to Strangers "Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers" (Rom. 12:13).

Entertaining Angels "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it" (Heb. 13:2).

God's Love "How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?" (1 John 3:17).

Points to Ponder

A Virtue Hospitality is the virtue that wants to clear some space for others and welcome them into this space. You make room for people and then you receive them there. In this setup, others are outsiders and you are an insider. They are guests and you are a host. Your job as host is to diminish the distance between you and your guest. If your guest is a stranger, you want the estrangement to be over. If your guest is alien to you, the idea is to reduce the alienation. It's worth noticing that your guest might never become your friend, at least not your close friend. Hospitality occupies the large middle ground between estrangement and friendship.

Hospitality in Hard Climates For most of human history, travelers routinely depended upon the food and drink and shelter of strangers. They couldn't travel any distance without it, and in hard climates it often meant the difference between life and death. "Hard climates" include those of hostility to Jews in Germany during the 1930s and 40s, when Gentiles in the Netherlands and other countries risked their own lives to hide and protect Jews.

Binding to Another Handing food to a guest is momentous. It binds you to that person. When you pass a dish of food to another person, you are saying that you want that person to live or even to thrive. Handing food to a guest is a sacramental act. It binds you together with goodwill. That's why the Bible talks about food so much. There's food all over the place in the Bible: fruit trees in Paradise, a Passover meal at the Exodus, manna in the desert, gleaning laws in farmers' fields, the multiplication of loaves and fishes in the desert, breakfast on the beach with the resurrected Lord, and parables that are fragrant with cookery and with promise of banquets to come.

Origin of Hospitals The great hospitals of Europe came from the diaconate of the Christian churches and from the hospices that were opened for pilgrims and travelers, which eventually made room for the hurt and the handicapped and then for the old and the orphaned and the impoverished.

The Most Sublime of Mysteries The communion for which Christians give thanks is plainly a ritual of hospitality. Jesus Christ receives believers at a table, and in the most sublime of mysteries — one so sublime and almost so bizarre that Christians should never get comfortable with it — the host becomes the meal and we end up eating and drinking our God. The point is that for us pilgrims such hospitality may mean the difference between life and death.

A Small Domestic Nicety Hospitality cannot be reduced to a small domestic nicety. At the center of the universe the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit harbor each other at the center of their being. The glory of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is its declaration that ultimate reality consists of three persons united as one holy God, each of them God only with the other two, each enveloping the other two in a ceaseless exchange of hospitality.


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.