(Posted August 25, 2016)
I love those places where what is past meets the promise of what will be. Now that we’re standing and straddling a summer of fun and adventure, while pointing ourselves to the Fall, with the return of responsibilities and opportunities, the end of August gives me new perspective on things. It’s like hiking -- coming to the end of one trail and looking forward to beginning the next trail and trek. As usual, the view from here is special. We suddenly understand where we’ve been and where we are going.
This Sunday starting at 4 p.m., the ongoing generosity of Al and Linda Jennings offering their beautiful home and pool will become the site of our annual Poolside Picnic and Vespers service. We forego the usual morning service at the church, and gather up our potato salads and desserts to spread upon the table while our children and adults splash in the pool. Yesterday, while enjoying my final days of vacation in our condo pool, I was telling my neighbor about this festival of food and fellowship. She looked at me and said, “Oh! you’re doing just what those first Christians did with Jesus!” And I realized she was right. Ours is a banquet of food and fellowship where every seat is a “seat of honor.”
How perfect this Sunday’s gospel is for our First Church Pool Party and Vespers Service. In it, Jesus attends a banquet at the house of a Pharisee, noting how the guests who arrive jockey to be placed at an “important seat.” But Jesus points out to his disciples how they really should behave. “… when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher;' then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."
That’s the thing about true hospitality. It really is the communion that Jesus intended us to share with one another. It’s not just food. Jesse Browner, a writer whose books concentrate on food, says,
"Eating, and hospitality in general, is a communion, and any meal worth attending by yourself is improved by the multiples of those with whom it is shared."
It’s a time when, literally, Christ is in the sweet dessert of one another’s company, in a less formulaic way than formal services. Rev. Holly Sprink says, "We don't practice hospitality to point other people to ourselves, our church, or even our beliefs. We practice hospitality to point people toward the ultimate welcome that God gives every person through Christ." It’s the time we do “real church” and take it on the road. I look forward to seeing everyone poolside at the Jennings house, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. – Pastor Pat Kriss