Thursday, March 17, 2011

Extending Hospitality is Messy Business in Churches

By David Horn, ThD
Director, The Ockenga Institute

One of my all time favorite images from the vast storehouses of wisdom hoisted on us by Garrison Keillor in his radio show, Prairie Home Companion, as I can recall it, can be reduced to a single two minute moment when a young Garrison, resisting all impulse to do otherwise, found himself in the late fall of the year throwing an overly ripe tomato toward his older sister who just happened to be bending over looking south. The overly juicy tomato came in low and hard from the north and hit her squarely on the part of the anatomy where one normally sits. Can you hear the wonderful, big juicy splat of that tomato?[1]
Putting aside the deviance of an adolescent young boy, this is the kind of sound we need to hear more of in our churches. We need to hear more splattering. We need to see and accept ourselves more in the context of the messiness of our lives. I realize this runs contrary to some of the efficiencies and professionalism that many of us like to bring to doing church life, we corporate types. But, we are not neat and tidy people. Nor do we serve neat and tidy people. In building our lives together—programmatically, institutionally, socially—should we not be more attentive to the actual condition of our lives outside of our gathered community? In our planning, should we not be attentive to the dangers of forcing square individuals into round holes?

Sometimes expressing hospitality to one another abhors the neatness we want to give it. We hesitate extending ourselves, for example, hoping for the “perfect time” to invite someone into our lives, not realizing that sometimes the less-than-perfect time is really the absolute right time. Sometime we are so concerned about chipping our fine china that we don’t extend hospitality on paper plates. And, on a more programmatic level, sometimes we have become so scripted that we have wrung all the spontaneity out of our life together. People live messy, messy lives and churches should bear some of that messiness with it. I leave it to you to decide what this might look like in your church.

[1] Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion radio broadcast, recorded, May 15, 2008.

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