Resonate Edition 29 - Page 4

• Table • Spirituality Michael Smith has been a farm kid, horticulturalist, pastor, property manager and Global Interaction cross-cultural worker in Thailand. He shares how his understanding of hospitality has been shaped by his Mum and Dad, Jesus, a Thai woman, colleagues and community members at Metford Community Baptist Church in NSW. G rowing up I developed a love for hospitality through the example of my parents. Rarely a Sunday went by where there were not guests at our dinner table and cooking at youth camps was also a regular event. Hospitality has been a big part of my married life and my family has been enriched by the stories, prayers and conversations shared around our table. So I was excited when I had the opportunity to study a theological college subject about ‘Table Spirituality’, which is the very ordinary, routine, daily activity of eating and suggests that eating is a spiritual act that should be focused on hospitality, community and mission. As I read through the Gospels I am struck by how central it is in Jesus’ ministry. For example, as Jesus eats the Passover meal He introduces communion to His disciples. Communion demonstrates the hospitality of God much more clearly than any other meal in the Bible. God sent his Son so that we might be in relationship with Him – communion with God! resonate · issue 29 · page 4 Another story I find challenging is when Jesus goes to eat at the house of Simon the Pharisee. Simon neglects his duty as host in offering hospitality to a guest. He doesn’t even provide the basic courtesies of greeting and foot washing (what was he thinking?). However, a lady described as a sinner washes Jesus feet with her tears, dries them with her hair and kisses them repeatedly. In return, the women receives Jesus hospitality but Simon misses out. Jesus neither judges nor rejects the women. He offers her unbounded hospitality. Jesus repeatedly displays hospitality and shows us the importance of allowing outsiders to experience God’s hospitality offered without constraint. There is no judgement – just a meeting of people where they are. This is an important point for me as I consider how I can offer hospitality to those who do not know God. Do I create conditions and rules that must be met first or do I meet people with grace, mercy and compassion? It is costly to extend God’s hospitality to others and I need to ask if I am prepared to pay the price. Extending hospitality always comes with risk. As I reflect on my ministry in Thailand, there were times when table spirituality was particularly important and my faith was both uplifted and challenged. When my family first moved there we were living in a small rural community with two other Global Interaction couples. We were the only foreigners in the area. During the first week, our neighbours invited us to celebrate the New Year with them. We had doubts about accepting the invitation because we didn’t have enough language, we didn’t know how to act appropriately and we were fearful that we would say the wrong thing and make fools of ourselves. However, we remembered the example of Jesus and acknowledged that through participation in hospitality community would be formed and mission would be possible. We went on to build a close relationship with our neighbour and she was invaluable in helping us understand our local community. We had many opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus with her.