devozine

For Youth Workers Post

Hospitality

Darren Wright

“In the Habit” session for devozine meditations for October 7–13, 2013.

MAKING THE CONNECTION

“I love offering hospitality, particularly with food; but I admit that occasionally, for me, hospitality is more about being able to show off or pull of a fantastic meal than it is about true hospitality: opening myself up to another person. But when I open myself up in offering hospitality to another, when I listen to their stories, I find myself changed.

“Sometimes hospitality begins to look like a system: I feed someone in order to receive an invitation to their place for dinner. It becomes part of a cycle of gift-receiving and gift-giving in which I only invite someone who can return the gift.

“Perhaps offering hospitality is easier that receiving it, an idea we’ll ponder when we look at some of the story of Elijah.” —Darren

MEET THE WRITER

Darren WrightDarren Wright is a Uniting Church Youth Worker serving in the Riverina Presbytery in New South Wales, Australia, as the Presbytery Youth and Children’s Ministry Worker. Darren has previously worked in congregational ministry, high school chaplaincy, and local government as a youth worker (as well as a petrol station attendant, supermarket employee, dairy manager, and furniture sales person). His interests include music (Moby, Radiohead, Ben Harper, The National, Muse, All India Radio), film (MegaMind, Harry Potter, How to Train your Dragon, Scott Pilgrim, The Avengers), TV (Chuck, Doctor Who, Big Bang Theory, Community), theology, pop-culture, working with young people in at-risk areas. He is particularly interested in how the church and theology connect with pop culture. Be sure to check out Darren’s blog.

STUFF YOU WILL NEED

  • a table and a tablecloth
  • food and drink
  • a loaf of bread
  • an inexpensive white dinner set: plates, cups, saucers
  • a candle and matches
  • permanent markers
  • Bibles or copies of 1 Kings 17:8–16
  • a candle snuffer
  • Print-Friendly Version of this session

PLUGGED IN

If you want to develop this session in other ways, here are a few resources that may be of help:


Video Clips from The Work of the People


Books and Study Guides

The “Practicing Our Faith” website, part of the Valparaiso Project on the Education and Formation of People in Faith, explores, in a variety of ways, the disciplines of Christian faith, including hospitality.

  • Hospitality” is an overview of the meaning and practice of hospitality.
  • Ways to Practice” suggests ways to offer hospitality, as well as worship ideas and a list of books and films related to hospitality.
  • The “Library” includes essays, study guides, sermons, and other material.
  • Grantees” includes information about hospitality projects.

Find these books and guides at the “Practicing Our Faith” bookstore:


Other Resources and Ideas
 


Quotations

  • “When it is most fully realized, hospitality not only welcomes strangers; it also recognizes their holiness. It sees in the stranger a person dear to and made in the image of God, someone bearing distinctive gifts that only he or she can bring.”
    —Ana Maria Pineda (“Hospitality,” Practicing Our Faith, page 34)
  • “Every good relationship between two or more people, whether it is friendship, marriage, or community, creates space where strangers can enter and become friends. Good relationships are hospitable. When we enter into a home and feel warmly welcomed, we will soon realize that the love among those who live in that home is what makes that welcome possible. When there is conflict in the home, the guest is soon forced to choose sides. ‘Are you for him or for her?’ ‘Do you agree with them or with us?’ ‘Do you like him more than you do me?’ These questions prevent true hospitality—that is, an opportunity for the stranger to feel safe and discover his or her own gifts. Hospitality is more than an expression of love for the guest. It is also and foremost an expression of love between the hosts.”
    —Henri J. M. Nouwen (Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith, the entry for March 6)
  • “Hospitality, therefore, means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.”
    —Henri J. M. Nouwen (Reaching Out, page 71)
  • “Hospitality means receiving each other, our struggles, our newborn ideas, with openness and care.”
    —Parker Palmer (To Know as We are Known: A Spirituality of Education; Harper and Row, 1983; page 73–4)
  • “To listen is very hard, because it asks of us so much interior stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speeches, arguments, statements, or declarations. True listeners no longer have an inner need to make their presence known. They are free to receive, to welcome, to accept. Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond. Listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very beings. The beauty of listening is that those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking their words more seriously and discovering their own true selves. Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, and even to dare to be silent with you.”
    —Henri J. M. Nouwen (Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith, the entry for March 11)
  • “Christian hospitality flows from realizing we have been brought by the Holy Spirit into the very life of God. With this good news it builds communities that can welcome outcasts and strangers, and it publicly challenges the status quo of the culture.”
    —Robert B. Kruschwitz (“Untamed Hospitality,” The Center for Christian Ethics, Baylor University, 2007)

CHECKING IN

Make the room as welcoming as possible. Put out some snacks, fruit, and drinks. Place the bread, the dinner set, and a candle on a table at the center of the room. As people arrive, welcome them, offer them food and drink, and ask them about their week. Listen intently to their stories.

When everyone has arrived, say: “Someone once said and did such amazing and wonderful things that people began to follow him, but they didn’t know who he was. When they asked, he said, ‘I am the light.’”

When you say the word light, strike the match and light the Christ candle. Then invite group members to sit peacefully and to enjoy the light for a minute.

Then ask people to reflect silently on these questions:
       When were you made to feel welcome?
       When did you feel unwelcome?
       When do you feel welcome at church?
       When have you felt unwelcome at church?
       When did you open up your life to another person to make him or her feel welcome?
       When were you too busy to offer hospitality to another person? What happened? How did you feel?

Provide permanent markers. Invite people to write on pieces of the dinner set one or more of their stories.

 

EXPLORING THE WORD

Scripture: 1 Kings 17:8–16

Read aloud the scripture. After a few minutes of quiet, read it again.

The story of Elijah and the widow raises a lot of questions. Here’s Elijah, a prophet of Yahweh, on the run, needing to beg for food from a poor widow, someone to whom he should offer hospitality rather than asking for help. Here’s a widow, at the end of her struggle for life, with just enough food for one more meal for herself and her son. Still she offers what hospitality she can to a stranger at her door. Hospitality is so deeply rooted at the core of her life that she will offer hospitality even at the end of her life.

Discuss:
       What surprises you about the story?
       To which character do you find yourself drawn? Why?
       What is hospitality?
       When have you experienced hospitality?
       When have you had to receive hospitality from someone you thought you should be helping?
       When have you offered hospitality to someone when you didn’t feel like it?
       How hospitable is your church?
       How can you and others help to create a culture of hospitality in your church? in your community? in your school?

Invite group members to plan a way that they, as a group, can offer hospitality to another group in their community.

SHARING IN PRAYER

Take the loaf of bread from the table and break it. Serve each person in the group, inviting group members to hold their piece of bread and to reflect on the widow and on her gift of hospitality. Then encourage them to pray, asking God for strength and love so that they may offer hospitality as she did, even in the depths of despair.

Invite people to eat the bread. Encourage them to pray, asking God for the openness to accept hospitality from other people, whom they might consider different or less fortunate.

After the prayer, say: “There comes a time when the light is changed so that it is not in one place but in many places at once. Watch. You see that the light is in one place. (Point to the candle’s flame.) I am going to change the light so that it is in many places at once. Watch.”

Slowly lower the candle snuffer over your light. Hold it over the wick for a moment and then slowly raise it. Watch the smoke curl up into the air and fade into the whole room.

Say: “The light that was in one place at one time is in all places at all times. Go in peace.”

 

TAKING IT FURTHER

Involve group members in practicing hospitality, using some of the ideas from the “Practicing Our Faith” website. Your group may, for example, be interested in getting together with other youth groups to plan a communitywide Las Posadas ritual. Or they may want to organize a potluck dinner in which everyone brings food from a different culture. Encourage group members to use their imaginations in planning ways to practice hospitality.

—from devozine In the Habit (September/October 2013). Copyright © 2013 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.
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