How can you tell when you’re in a church kitchen? Every cabinet is locked and the one that isn’t has a sign on it that lets you know you opened it wrong.
I didn’t say it was a funny joke.
Church kitchen joke aside, an important part of Christian hospitality is in letting someone do something in a way we would never do it.
And then keeping our mouths shut.
Years ago, I was thrilled to preach at a different church. (Pulpit supply – so don’t even TRY to figure out which church this was…) I arrived early and was invited into the kitchen where the “Church Ladies” were getting food ready for coffee hour. I offered to help. After an awkward pause, I was given a box of donuts and a linen napkin lined basket. When I arranged the donuts into the basket I discovered I had one left over that didn’t fit. I made some sort of joke about it- who wants to eat it now or used it as a monocle or some such thing- innocuous as far as I could tell. I was given a look by one of the church members so cold that it stopped me mid-sentence. She stiffly brushed past me, removed all of the donuts I had placed in the basket and then refilled the basket with the same donuts in such a way that they all fit. All without saying a word, she transformed my willingness to help into shame. The other people in the kitchen said nothing about her behavior and nothing to me about my attempt to help. I skittered out of the church kitchen as quickly as possible to try to find a place to hide in an unfamiliar church. The frost in the woman’s look and the way the others were complicit in her rudeness made me wish I could leave. If I were visitor instead of the preacher- I would have walked out the door and knocked the dust from my super cute black pumps.
Many, many years later that experience continues to influence my ministry. When the flowers are off-center or the half and half is in the wrong pitcher or the donuts are in two separate baskets instead of one, I am thankful. Yes, it isn’t perfect. Yes, the tablecloth was the wrong one. So what?
Carl Jung had this quote carved over the doorway to his home
VOCATUS ATQUE NON VOCATUS DEUS ADERIT
(Bidden or Unbidden, God is Present)
One donut basket or two, God is present.
Blue tablecloth or red, God is present.
Small pitcher of cream or large, God is present.
Part of hospitality is celebrating those who are willing to be present and are willing to lend a hand as best they are able.
So put out the wrong salt and pepper sets.
Light the candles too early or too late.
And, please, please, use that one remaining donut as a monocle.
I think it’s funny.