Do you remember the first time you hosted your parents or other significant elders around your table? Did you feel all grown up, proud to demonstrate your ability to take care of yourself and them? Or did it backfire and leave you feeling adrift, anxious and alone?
Or perhaps you remember the first time you took a loved one with you to see the place where you grew up, showing them favourite haunts and the sites of the various events that shaped you into who you are now. Did you feel more deeply understood, more profoundly known? Or did it backfire and leave you feeling exposed and vulnerable?
Inviting people into your home is a brave move, full of wonderful possibilities, but also with very real risks. Being invited into someone’s home, therefore, is a great privilege.
This spring, the parish I serve, Church of the Ascension, Ottawa, is sending a delegation of youth and adults to Guatemala to witness the work of God with the Guatemalan people as they strive to achieve justice and peace for themselves and their country. It is not a mission trip; although we hope that our members will be helpful while they are there, we are under no illusions. There is nothing they can do that isn’t already being done by the people who live there…with one important exception: being good guests.
Being a good guest means more than just wiping your feet and not using all the hot water. It means being willing to receive more than you give. It means being quick to see the beauty and meaning in the lives around you, even if it looks different from what you’re used to. It means knowing that you are not in charge and that your ways do not hold sway. And it means taking the story of what you saw and what you learned away with you to share with those who haven’t had the privilege of being guests in that place and to shape how you live in your own home.
As our delegates prepare for this trip, they are being invited to carry with them Jesus’ promise that Isaiah’s prophecy has been fulfilled: the poor have received good news; the prisoners and oppressed have been sent free; it is now the year of the Lord’s favour. Trusting this promise, they have been charged with three sacred tasks: first, of being the kind of guests that make their hosts feel understood and respected; second, of bearing witness to God’s work in that place; third, of bearing word back to encourage and enliven our commitment to God’s work in our own homes and throughout the world.
But these tasks are not only for those travelling across continents and cultures. Each one of us is to be a gracious guest whenever we have the opportunity-whether in our neighbour’s house or in another country. Each one of us has the capacity to train our eyes to see the signs of God at work in the world around us. Each one of us, as a follower of Jesus, is called to develop the ability to proclaim that good news when we see it.