I've done a lot of traveling and road trips for my work in the last year, and if there's one thing I've learned during these travels its how much of a blessing great hospitality is. Nothing is better than having a private space with clean towels and fast wifi. I've learned a lot about what GREAT hospitality looks like:
Great hospitality looks like planning ahead to receive travelers. I've had a lot of conversations with people who will say things like "we want to have a guest room always available." When my friends moved into their house in Arizona, they told me they were getting the guest room ready for any time I (or anyone else) needed to stay. They planned ahead of time to receive guests. It put me in a mindset that said "if I'm ever in Phoenix, I can trust that I will have a place to stay."
Great hospitality involves meals. Almost every person I've stayed with has invited me around their meal tables and included me in their meal plans. Many times, they cover the cost of the meal. I feel humiliated: I never want to be a mooch so I always offer to contribute. But what I've realized is that it is a service to great friends to allow them to generously host you. It tells them that you trust them enough to place yourself in their care for a temporary time.
Great hospitality involves creating space to share stories. I have a vivid memory from the last year of sitting around a meal table with two friends after having eaten dinner with them, and feeling for the first time in a long time I had a safe space and attentive and sympathetic ears to be heard, understood, and received. That's what hospitality is: emptying oneself so that there is space to receive the other. Its emptying yourself of commitments, other priorities, anxieties, fears, and other thoughts that preoccupy, so that the host has space to hear, understand, and receive the story of the guest, and to share their own story in reciprocated vulnerability.
Hospitality is central to what God is about. It occurs to me that Jesus' mission was one of hospitality: Jesus' entire life was considered by the Gospel writers as the visitation of the God of Israel. He spends much of his time sharing meals with people. And to those who receive him in hospitality, they realize that he is not Stranger but Host, bringing with Him an altogether new kind of hospitality. In a sense, the salvation Jesus offered people was the chance to come 'home' in Him, to rediscover their humanity. Zacchaeus, hated by his own community invites Jesus the stranger into his home and to his delight discovers himself to be offering hospitality to Jesus, who then declares Zacchaeus as having full status as a Son of Abraham, for "today, salvation has come to this house." In offering hospitality to Jesus, Zacchaeus discovers himself entering into a new, bigger, pervasive hospitality: the hospitality of God. (stole this idea from Brendan Byrne's book The Hospitality of God)