People say I have the gift of hospitality, but I once put a cup of salt, instead of teaspoon of salt, into a batch of lasagna so clearly it can’t be about gourmet cooking. I also once totally forgot that we had invited six people for dinner, so hospitality apparently doesn’t hinge on attention to details. Instead, I would agree with someone I heard recently who said, “Hospitality is inviting heaven into the house”.
Actually I’d expand that to say, “Hospitality is inviting heaven into the house…the bus, the office…the coffee shop…the airplane…the parking lot.” And I know many people who do that much better than I do.
A couple years ago, John told a story in a sermon about a mentor of ours. For a season, Gordon and Gail MacDonald were pastoring in New York City. They befriended some city bus drivers who were Christ-followers, but felt they didn’t have an environment for ministry. Gordon pushed back and suggested:
“Why don’t you start up your buses each morning and, while the engine is warming, walk down the aisle of the bus and shout, ‘In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, I declare this bus to be a sanctuary where passengers will experience something of the love of Christ through me.’ You can be a pastor in your own sanctuary.”
The bus drivers took his suggestion and experienced a transformation of perspective on their everyday life. Suddenly their buses were a safe place where they were aware God was present and welcoming.
For my friend Anne a 747 is her sanctuary. I can’t imagine anyone more full of the love of Jesus caring for weary travelers with joy and patience on the long flight from Minneapolis to Amsterdam. Her flights are places where God is present and welcoming. Recently Anne switched her schedule to work this flight when I and my colleague were on our way home. She treated us like royalty, but she does that with everyone she meets! Can you even??
Recently another friend, Daoud Nassar, spoke at our church. He has a farm outside Bethlehem that is surrounded by Israeli settlements. The government has blocked the road to his farm with boulders so you have to walk in. They have restricted him from building anything above ground, so he uses caves. They have repeatedly bulldozed the olive trees he grows. But his farm, called Tent of Nations, is a sanctuary. This is the sign that greets everyone.
Yesterday we got more terrible news about violence in a synagogue in Jerusalem. The Middle East is a place known for both hospitality and violence. What if Arab and Israeli, Muslim and Jew alike could look each other in the eye and, with open arms, say “Welcome to my sanctuary”?
Welcome, Jesus. May each place we set our feet today be a sanctuary, a piece of heaven on earth.
Where is your sanctuary today? Might you take a minute to dedicate your space to the work of God?