Jess and I went to the U.K. for two weeks and we were able to attend the National Leaders Conference and experience the UK&I Vineyards. People kept asking me how it was going during the conference and I have to say, it was great! We are super excited. There was something about being around a family you didn’t know yet, but loved already. Even just by being in the room I could feel the Vineyard ethos, the shared values, and mission in the Kingdom of God. To love God well in a life of worship, to compassionately love all people.
And the hospitality we were shown! Jess and I have commented for years as we have traveled with HLI all over the USA that the gracious welcome of people within the Vineyard movement has been astounding. And it was no different in the U.K. People opening up their homes to us, welcoming us into their relationship circles. Having passionate discussions about their deep longings and desires to see the local church love their cities well, block by block and neighborhood by neighborhood.
Whether I was talking to a person doing full time ministry or in lay leadership, or in weekend attendance in the churches, I kept hearing the same thing over and over again. A deep love of Jesus, and an intentional, empowered and enacted love towards people whether refugees, coworkers, strangers or family. It all made us very excited and driven to get there.
Unfortunately we still have to wait, so we are excited and driven to wait well.
And as I ask Jesus what he has for us in the waiting I keep getting a picture of a bird at a bird bath. Drinking and shaking in the water, cleaning out the cobwebs and getting rejuvenated.
But also as we wait he keeps reminding me of that hospitality. The recent examples and the old ones. I am reminded of a few years ago he talked to me personally about the idea. Asked me the question, “How am I creating a hospitable atmosphere around me?”
I was at the time meeting with a Spiritual Director, and this idea arose from those early sessions. So as I was on a hunting trip, I made it my mission to stop at every trail head and pray the phrase, “God create in me your heart of hospitality.”
I would walk the trail, engrossed by his creation reminded at every step of his hospitality. How even as enemies he loved us, came to where we were and let us hurt him and kill him even though he had the power to unmake us. How he sat with an occupying force and did miracles for them. How he touched the untouchable, loved the unlovable, made the impossible possible for us. Every time I prayed it I had this picture in my mind like he was standing in front of me, and would turn and extend his hand down the trail and say, “Welcome to my house, enjoy what I have made for you.” He made for us this beautiful planet, and said “Here you go.” Crazy.
It made me question how I treat it, if I believe or at least long that my every breathe be worship I would hope those interactions with Him would give me pause.
Later I realized He was forming my heart with those interactions, bit by bit rearranging my mental furniture, renewing my mind if you will. If his very nature is hospitality, how am I expressing his image in me, towards Him first, and finally towards others. Is my heart hospitable towards Him? Is it hospitable towards others… all others?
Oh Lord help us love the way you loved, with no regard to our own position.
With all of this hospitality we have experienced I have been a bit overwhelmed by the world lately, and the contrast I see on the news. It really doesn’t matter what country you’re in, everywhere the undertone is the same. Fear has seemed to do what it does best, driven a wedge. It has made me sad lately to see so many followers of Jesus accept that wedge, and in the process reject the image of the hospitable God in us.
The image of radical welcome.