If I prepared a mystery food and placed it in front of you, would you eat it without asking what it was? Would you trust my choice? Or, would you cordially decline and or ask several probing questions? Would you sniff the food? Fact is, unless you are starving to death and no other food is available, you would not eat the food; no questions needed. We like what we like and tend to seek our creature comforts and personal likes. Only occasionally will we venture into unknown waters and try new things.
I have been at a conference for our church denomination the last couple days and have noticed something a bit odd. Our dining room is large, perhaps 200x100 in size (maybe larger). We enter the far end of the room, go through any one of 6 foodlines then choose a table. These tables begin at the end of the food lines and stretch to the other side of the cavernous room. The oddity I have noticed is those first into the room, get their food and immediately take the nearest tables. I suppose that is okay, except, it tends to slap hospitality and courtesy in the face. In all, there are probably well over 1000 participants at this mealtime. Last one in the room means a long walk to get to an open table.
What would it look and feel like if those first in the door started to fill tables at the farthest point from the food lines? Would their actions speak to the last people coming into the room, "We honor you and care about you." Human nature tends to seeks it's own comfort at the expense of others. Another oddity I have noticed and at one time I was the poster child for it is this. We tend to stick with those people we know and only sit with strangers if there are no other tables available. Sitting with strangers is not our first choice.
Over the last couple days, I have listened to our church leadership encourage us to be stretched in our faith, practice, and relationships. So, I have chosen to always seek out a table with people I have never met. It has been fun and meaningful. Let me introduce you to Jenny (Breakfast) and Robin (Lunch). When I asked these two ladies if I could share their table, they graciously invited me to join them at mealtime. It is the best decision I have ever made. Hopefully, they fell likewise. I am not generally outgoing. I would prefer to be out in the middle of the woods or on a mountain trail. Introversion is the skin I wear and I am quite comfortable in it. So you can imagine how challenging it was to approach strangers and make the initial query about the table.
In the midst of our conversations, I learned that Jenny has suffered some health issues and has difficulty remembering things, but is invested heavily into youth ministry and loves to help young people come to know Christ. She has been in youth ministry since 2001 and I immediately blessed her in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit for her passion and tenacity. She shared her involvement with Chrysalis ministry and now her and I will discuss my future involvement in the Chrysalis ministry for teenagers. While the Walk to Emmaus has changed many adult lives, Chrysalis continues to help young people in their spiritual formation. Oh, Jenny lives in Hughesville which I thought was funny considering my last name.
Robin on the other hand, resides in the same area our son lives and is going to have her first appointment as pastor. Her mentor is a good friend of mine and one with whom I shared ordination back a few years ago. Small world, huh? Robin, a nurse, is excited to have been called of God to enter into pastoral ministry and looks to love her congregations.
None of the joys I hold in my heart right now would have occurred had I sought a solitary table or one filled with friends and acquaintances. A polite society always thinks of the other person first and pushes the envelope to meet new people and build relationships that change both lives. Doesn't this practice sounds vaguely like Matthew 28:19-20?