This week I’m preparing to teach from a book, Being Human. As I was working my way through the introduction to the book, I had to stop, reflect on, and absorb a particular paragraph:
Yet God’s desire in delivering us out of lostness into fellowship with Himself is to set us free to be human. Being human means being the people He originally intended us to be – serving Him and enjoying Him, serving and enjoying each other, ruling and enjoying His good world. Our aim, then is to lay a biblical foundation for the Christian life on which we hope men and women may labor to construct a beautiful and pleasing building – human life – which will glorify God and endure forever.
Being Human, then, moves onto the organizing principle in chapter one that God has created man in His image, His image became distorted when sin came into the world, and we are in the process of being restored and growing, by the work of Christ on the cross, into a fuller representation of the image of God. God is creative, He is love, and He exists in unity within the Trinity. And so are we as His image becomes less distorted in us. God is the most hospitable Person as He has invited us to live in His beautiful presence as His children. Because we were created in His image, we find joy in serving and being with other people as we exhibit hospitality.
A few months ago, Dwight and I had the opportunity to extend hospitality to two couples who have been our friends for a number of years. We had determined back in November that we needed to get together to deepen our relationships with one another and set a weekend in January to convene at our home. I was reading a book, The Art of Gathering, as Dwight and I planned our weekend. There were so many helpful suggestions for serving and welcoming people into our home. We wanted this to be our goal. One suggestion was to send notes between the initial invitation and the event so that your guests could better anticipate the gathering. We did that! We sent an email asking them to bring an item that represented something new in their lives this year. We also asked them to bring warm clothes for walking around our property. Email responses indicated that they were looking forward to our fun time together. Our guests arrived rather late on Friday evening, one flying in, the other driving from a couple of hours away. They were tired, so we visited for a short while together, and then helped them settle in for the weekend. I prepared an easy but full breakfast for Saturday morning. We were able to leisurely enjoy conversation for an extended time over breakfast. We adjourned from the table for our guests to share the items they had brought and and to explain their significance. Our sharing time continued until lunch. It was thrilling to see what God has been doing in the lives of our friends. Their gifts are varied, and it was obvious to all of us that God is using our friends in a variety of ways – in music and technology, law, education, missions management and innovation. After lunch we were able to go for a beautiful walk down the road and around our property. We even sang to the cows across the road as some of God’s creatures ‘here below’! We returned back to our house to rest for preparation for dinner. We had already determined that we would linger over a 4-course Italian dinner. But the meal had to be prepared. Every one had assignments for food preparation. I had done some prep-work before they arrived. We spent a couple of hours getting things together, and then sat down to enjoy each course with all the accompaniments. We lingered there until we were talked out, and we had enjoyed all the food we could enjoy. When everything was cleaned, we all fell into our beds, exhausted from our time together. Sunday morning brought breakfast , prepared ahead, but filling enough to give us nourishment and time to reflect on our weekend before we headed off to church together. We went our separate ways after worshiping together, refreshed and nourished from our time together.
As I reflect back over this time together, especially in light of my current reading, I am impressed with the richness of our time. We enjoyed each other, and we enjoyed God’s good benefits. We were able to encourage one another in scripture and conversation to go out in service refreshed and more united with God and one another. This was one of those rare times when a hospitality experience ended with a sense of being blessed, and nourished, and fulfilled with great joy and satisfaction in great thankfulness that we had labored together well with God.
I will be teaching from Being Human The Nature of Spiritual Experience beginning this Sunday morning as a continuation of the Crossroads Sunday School class which begins at 9:15. Our study will continue for 10 weeks into the first weeks of August. Anyone who would like is welcome to join us.