by Jake Hall

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 10/9/14

We are southerners. We understand hospitality here in Macon, where every guest is welcomed with a smile, southern drawl, and a glass of sweet tea. What if hospitality goes beyond our gentile niceties?

We would do well to chart the limits of our accepted notions of hospitality to find where our southern charm ends and the welcome of Christ begins. One welcomes the guest; the other welcomes the unknown stranger. Christian hospitality presses us into uncharted territory. 

It is just the kind of thing that sculptor Ginger Geyer discovered in her research. “Patchwork Hospitality” is a porcelain sculpture of a patchwork quilt that embodies a sense of homespun welcome. Her sculptures cross genres and mix art and scripture. “Patchwork Hospitality” bears 32 paintings from a cross-section of art history. Each image evokes hospitality in some way. As she researched images to use, the concept kept expanding and Geyer’s sense of hospitality expanded. Initially, she began with images of hospitality extended to one’s own community through images of family and friends. Then, images of the weddings at Cana or Christ in the house of Mary and Martha filled the panes. 

She then shifted towards the practice of hospitality as receptivity to God through our readiness to welcome the surprise of the Spirit. Geyer discovered more instances of Christian hospitality than the painting surface on her large chunk of clay would allow. She began to recognize hospitality as a lavish generosity, an openness to the stranger, an experience of forgiveness, and a subversive transformation that moves beyond charitable acts. Hospitality became every bit the open welcome of Christ and nothing less.

This week, we will celebrate our ministry of hospitality at Highland Hills. We give thanks for our open sacred spaces: for a sanctuary in which we worship and an amphitheater where we experience the beauty of creation. We will note the relational openness of our church family that fills these spaces. We will ask how we can do more to welcome people as Christ did, as we live with open minds, open hearts, and open arms.