You know what is one of the most exciting things ever? Having Jesus for dinner. I don’t mean the Lord’s Supper. I mean having Jesus over, as a guest, for dinner.
Over the past few years, hospitality has been gradually becoming a more and more important part of my life. I always knew that hospitality was important—after all, the Bible tells us to practice hospitality—but it wasn’t something that I thought about much. After my husband Jesse and I got married and we had our own place, we developed a habit of having people over frequently. We found that we both loved hosting potlucks, movie nights and games nights. It was simply a part of who we were; I didn’t really think about it being hospitality.
Then one day, I heard through a friend that someone else had said that I was one of the most hospitable people they knew. Naturally, I appreciated the compliment (who doesn’t love getting compliments!), but it also stuck with me. “Hospitable” just hadn’t been a part of my picture of who I was. But it made sense. Hospitality doesn’t have to be anything fancy, it is simply welcoming others, whether friends or strangers, with warmth and kindness. That is something that I love to do!
Since then I have heard it from several people—that I am very hospitable—and it has become a part of who I understand myself to be. The neat thing about learning more about yourself is that you can become even more who you already are. I have become more intentional about opening up my home to people and trying to make my home a place that feels comfortable, safe and welcoming.
One of the newest things that my husband and I have started doing is what we call “Sunday Dinners at the Wingers.” It’s actually an idea I found on a blog. I was just looking up a recipe for something and followed a link that looked interesting. It was about a family who opened their home once a week with an open-invitation supper for whoever wanted to come. I loved the idea! So did Jesse. We decided to give it a try.
We took the idea and adapted the details to make it our own. Here’s how it works for us: Every Sunday at 6 p.m. we have an open-invitation supper. We simply ask people to let us know if they are planning to come, and to bring something to share if they are able.
We will always have a big crock pot of soup or something on, and we look forward to sharing it with whoever decides to come! We have spread the word around our college and church, and so far there has generally been a varied assortment of people on any given Sunday.
I have found the various responses that people have to this idea to be quite fascinating. There are some who get very excited. They love the idea! Others seem hesitant (Are you sure I can come? I won’t be inconveniencing you?), or they have questions about how it will work: What if you get tired of having people over every week? What if there isn’t enough food? What if too many people show up?
Jesse and I don’t really have any of those concerns. We have found that God always provides, and there are always plenty of leftovers. And we aren’t worried about space, probably because we are still at that college stage of life where sitting on the floor and reusing dishes are perfectly acceptable options! (And anyways, we haven’t had to improvise like that yet.)
What does all of this have to do with having Jesus over for dinner? The other week we were getting ready for Sunday dinner, and we got a call from someone who had heard about our open invitation and wanted to take us up on it. We had never met this person before, and didn’t know who they were. That made me really excited! I would love for our Sunday suppers to get to the point where people feel welcome to come or invite their friends, even if they don’t know us.
As I continued with the preparations for dinner, a thought rose in my mind: Jesus is coming for dinner. I couldn’t shake the thought from my mind. Our mystery guest was going to be Jesus.
I was struck by how true that thought was. Beyond the idea that it is possible to “entertain angels unawares,” in a very real way everyone who comes through our doors is Jesus. As his people, Jesus dwells within each of us. When I show hospitality to my brothers and sisters in Christ, I am showing hospitality to Jesus. Beyond this, Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:40 that whatever we do for the “least of these” we do for Jesus. That is part of why I love hospitality. I get to welcome Jesus into my home!
I am also challenged by this realization too, as I think about stories in the gospels about Jesus and hospitality—especially the story of Mary and Martha. Like many who enjoy showing hospitality, I can have very strong Martha tendencies. I want to make sure the apartment is clean, that there is plenty of food, that the table is set nicely… etc. It becomes easy to be all hustle and bustle, busy serving my guests rather than simply being with them.
That is part of why these Sunday dinners are so good for me. They are, in their very essence, meant to be informal and relaxed. This isn’t the time for fancy place settings and centerpieces (as much as I love those things). Supper is a simple pot of soup—no frills, not even any dessert! (Unless someone brings some.)
While I love the elegant and fancy, and there is a place and time for that, this is not that time. It is a time to simply be; to be with people, to slow down, to not worry about the messy kitchen or the piles of homework that have been shoved into the corners. People and relationships become the most important thing. To look in the eyes of each person and see Jesus.
Leane Winger is a member of Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford, B.C. She recently moved to Victoria, B.C. She blogs at wayfareradventures.blogspot.com, where this post originally appeared.