Hanging on the wall above my desk at home you will find a wall calendar. As the months pass by, the pages are turned to reveal a variety of picturesque images or scenes meant to evoke a sense of peace and tranquilly. The calendar that I am looking at today has an image above February’s page of a bridge.
This bridge appears to be spanning a river, connecting the side nearest the photographer to a point on the opposite side that is far enough in the distance that I am unable to pinpoint exactly where it connects with land on that end. There are flowering bushes in the foreground and a span of mountains in the distance. It is truly a beautiful image.
But it is the bridge that is the focus of the picture and of my thoughts.
Recently, I’ve been leading a Bible discussion group for our church entitled; “Taking the Bible Seriously, But Not Literally.” This phrase is one that is shared each week as we gather for worship and one that we continue to grow into. We seek out ways to hold up a mirror to our lives and our faith using Scripture as a tool and seek a reflection that is genuine and radiates integrity.
This past week, as we continued our topic of study, the Bible and homosexuality, our conversation focused on the understanding of “hospitality.” The Scriptural basis for our conversation came from the book of Genesis and the story of Lot hosting two strangers within his home in Sodom.
Each participant was invited to share a story of when she/he received hospitality as a lead-in to our conversation. Story after story unfolded; some of genuine hospitality, some of botched attempts. No matter the outcome, the notion of offering hospitality carried a general understanding of its purpose. Hospitality is more than a polite greeting, a handshake, a cup of coffee … Hospitality is the bridge that connects us, providing a path where the purpose is turning strangers into friends.
As a Christian, it is my understanding that what God asks of me is to be in relationship with others; honest, respectful relationship. I am commanded to offer hospitality, to my friends, my neighbors and even my enemies. And the hospitality that I am called to offer is to be genuine, not provided in hopes of receiving something back. It is a selfless act, giving to others without concern for what may be received in return.
It sounds simple, perhaps. But without much thought, I can begin to think of a list of those to whom I would have difficulty offering genuine hospitality. And my assumption is that I am not alone in this difficulty.
As they begin their work, engineers may not have an understanding of where a bridge may touch down or what it will take to fully span the distance. Much is the same between bridging the distance between stranger and friend. I know that in order to achieve the goal we have to take a first step. Piece by piece, the plans and design come together until one day we are able to walk across that bridge and join with those on the other side.
As we continue to turn the pages of our calendars, may we seek out ways to offer hospitality in such a way that will span the multitude of things that divide us. May we create bridges over the lines created by differences in economic status, sexuality, faith traditions and many others. May we continue to offer ourselves to others in ways that are genuine and hospitable. And may our communities and the world benefit from our experience.