O God…send therefore your blessing upon Name and Name,
that they may surely keep their marriage covenant,
and so grow in love and godliness together
that their home may be a haven of blessing and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
–A Service of Christian Marriage I, United Methodist Church
Haven (n.) – A shelter serving as a place of safety or sanctuary
Every time that I read the Prayer of Blessing from the hymnal at a marriage ceremony, I am powerfully reminded that God calls us to not only love one another, but to offer hospitality to those in need:
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” – Hebrews 13:2, NRSV
“When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” – Luke 14:12b-14, NRSV
The concept of hospitality is pleasing to many of us: we want to welcome our neighbors. But the practice of hospitality can be challenging, especially in our contemporary society. Wesley Furlong observes, “People who live in societies that emphasize autonomy over community often struggle with the inconvenience and vulnerability hospitality requires.” (Smart Compassion, p. 35)
This quote reminds me of a time when my church’s youth group traveled to Mexico to serve as missionaries – not for the purpose of “helping the poor people in Mexico,” but to build relationships with members of a sister church. Homes were shared – the very best (air conditioned) rooms given to the guests – while the family members slept together on the floor in the front room. Communal meals offered the very best home-cooking. Our group greatly appreciated their hospitality; yet when the sister church visited Texas, our church couldn’t find enough homes to host the visitors. There was an embedded perception among our relatively affluent church members that the guests from Mexico would not be comfortable dealing with the language barrier and the inconvenience of living in a stranger’s home. Donations for hotel rooms were generously given.
We struggle with hospitality, partly because we are cautious about relationships. We want to limit who we invite into our space, who we allow ourselves to become vulnerable with.
When the storms of life are raging, where can a person in our community find a safe haven? Opening our home for a stranger may seem risky. But are we willing to make a space at our dinner table for one who is alone during the holidays? To offer to babysit so a frazzled single parent can have a night off? To offer to host a small group so an opportunity for relationship-building can occur?
How do we make our homes “a haven of blessing and peace” for those in need?
Prayer Focus: Pray for those who feel “on the outside” during holiday celebrations, because they do not have a family or groups of friends to share the occasion with.