“I intend to pass through Macedonia. Perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter.” – 1 Corinthians 16:5
When Paul writes to a friend in Corinth and announces his intentions to stay a few months, we can confidently conclude this is a very, very good friend, or Paul’s ascetic-like habits made him an easy guest. Or both.
In Paul’s day, restaurants and hotels were in short supply. No endless chain of Sbarros, Starbucks, Cinnabons and Super 8s. Travelers depended on the good graces of others. Guests were treated like royalty and offered the best food available while the dutiful host stood by and watched, just as Abraham did when three heavenly visitors dropped in.
Since food and water were not plentiful, hospitality was far more heroic than it is today. Care and attention to the host’s finite resources was paramount for guests. Maybe that’s why Proverbs 25:17 says “Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest they grow weary of your greedy face and judge you lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut.” (translation mine).
When we gather around the Lord’s Table, the rations are admittedly thin. And yet, the forgiveness of God in the breadcrumb and thimble-full of juice is an inexhaustible, renewable resource. The Lord’s Table is the only table where it is impossible to wear out our welcome.
If and when unwanted, greedy guests bang upon your door—guests such as depression, anger, disease, the desire to drink, the urge to scream sense into your co-worker—you can bring those to Christ’s table too. When they see who your host is, they might just pipe down for a moment and perhaps even move on to a different house.
Lord of Hosts, I am tired, I am weak, I am worn. Take my hand, precious Lord and lead me home. Amen
Matthew Laney is the Senior Minister of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, UCC, in Hartford, Connecticut.