We talk a good talk in the church about the Christian virtue of hospitality. It has become in many circles a practice that you just can’t say you aren’t interested in. Sure, I welcome my neighbors in, we say. Sure, I have an extra bed at my house. Sure, you can come over for dinner. Saying these things rolls off our tongue as easily as “Jesus loves you.” Yet, in our there’s a Wal-Mart around the corner neighborhoods, just walk to 7-11 if you need something existence, do we really get to know our friend called hospitality? Do we really understand how to make ourselves vulnerable to one another in our giving and receiving?
If I am on an out-of-town trip to visit a friend and have a need of an item or I want a special snack, what do I do? I either leave before or during the visit to purchase from the nearest variety story what my heart desires. Or, if I don’t have a car, I keep the same plan but find a ride. In both instances, it’s a mostly independent activity.
This week, the pastoral life has taken me to the campus of St. John’s College in Collegeville, Minnesota. It’s a place housing a Benedictine monastery, a school for women and men, the famous St. John’s Bible, acres and acres of well-preserved and kept land. I’m a guest at the Collegeville institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research– an outreach program of the monetary. I’m here learning how to become a better communicator of the written word.
When I arrived yesterday after a 90 mile van ride from the Minneapolis airport, my first impression of this state new to me alongside with 11 other pastors along with a scholar in residence, Richard Lischer and a writing tutor, Sari Fordham, was: “This place is in the middle of nowhere!”
And, I didn’t have a car. I felt trapped. There would be no runs to CVS for left at home essentials or late night snacks of my choice. A whole week in the middle of the land of thousand lakes? Where was the nearest Target?
But, to the staff of Collegeville Institute hospitality is no joke. If you know anything about the Benedictine order of brothers, you know they take the virtue of welcome very seriously.
Before I had too much time to worry about my non-existent toothpaste, we were informed during Monday night orientation of the commissary open to us free of charge. Everything we might need by way of personal products could be found. If we didn’t see what we needed, we were instructed to let the staff know so that they could find it for us. Then, we were told about the kitchen, fully stocked with every kind of juice, soda, cereal, snack that you could even imagine. And, if there was a particular food that would make us particularly happy, we’d find a tablet on the refrigerator to make our request. They promised to have it to us within 24 hours.
Sometimes I think, we city folk, busy folk, “I’ll take care of me” folk, aren’t able to allow the wells of hospitality’s waters to seep in bless our days because we think we have no need of such. Modern life’s love of self-sufficiency have put us all in auto pilot.
I’m glad to be spending a week in here where every morning when I can drink the Almond Milk I requested for my cereal then brush my teeth with the toothpaste I did not buy, so to remember God’s gift of welcome. It’s a gift I can’t buy or earn. Being at Collegeville is teaching me how to recieve.