On the Sabbath, we … went down along the river … to a prayer meeting… One woman, Lydia, was from Thyatira and a dealer in expensive textiles, known to be a God-fearing woman. As she listened with intensity to what was being said, the Master gave her a trusting heart – and she believed! After she was baptized, along with everyone in her household, she said in a surge of hospitality, “If you’re confident that I’m in this with you and believe in the Master truly, come home with me and be my guests.” We hesitated, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer. —Acts 16:13-15
Hospitality is a major theme in the Bible. It is so because hospitality was a major duty in the cultures of that day. Opening one’s table to others, friends and strangers, formed a primary expression of hospitality. It was especially vital in a world where inns or restaurants were few and far between. Table fellowship had been part of Acts’ story of the church since the outset (2:46).
Here, it is the church – in Paul and the others – who receives the gift of table fellowship from Lydia. This narrative of sharing word and table reveals reciprocity of ministry between Lydia and Paul. Together they practice the gospel’s call and response. Together they serve as disciples. Together they minister to one another, and to their companions and households.
This is what it is like when we share God’s Word and God’s Table. Call and response—together. The Holy Spirit shows up and people are changed—together. Barriers fall as the Spirit leads—together. Disciples engage in acts of mutual ministry and hospitality—together. God promises to dwell with those who make their home and open their home in love—together. God’s praise and Christ’s body invite all to join—together. Those who open their hearts to God receive strength and transformation—together.
What a glorious sense of mission and ministry for today’s church! Disciples—together: mutual serving and hospitality, opening hearts and home, strengthening, growing, and transforming—together. Do you recall experiencing and practicing ministry that is reciprocal? Where might the Spirit be leading you and our church to go in order to graciously extend the gift of hospitality, and in order to graciously receive the gift of hospitality?
As we consider the questions about our future through the Crossroads program we might ask: “Is hospitality at the heart of what God is calling us to be and do in our neighborhood.?” Let’s all pray this prayer this week and see where it leads:
Ever-guiding Spirit, open us to the paths you call us to travel. Open us to the ones with whom you would have us minister. May we welcome one another with hearts of grace, that together we may be hospitable to your purposes. Amen.
With blessing and prayers for transformation & resurrection—
in you and in our church’s ministry!
Rev. Wendy Miller Olapade