By Linda Santavicca
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)
Ever since I gleaned “practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13b), it became my goal that whoever entered our home would feel welcomed. I also had a false sense of belief that hospitality was about entertaining with all the Martha Stewart aesthetics. In my effort to replicate the Queen of Entertaining’s ‘food to table’ experience, I ended up becoming the Martha out of Luke 10:41.
It was 6:05 pm and I checked the table to make sure it resembled the photo from Martha Stewart’s Living magazine. The table was adorned with new linen napkins, lead crystal glasses, tall taper candles and a replicated Martha Stewart centerpiece to complete the look. From the oven, the hearty aroma of Martha’s bolognaise recipe infiltrated throughout the house. Perfect. The doorbell rang and there at the front door were our guests holding a homemade apple pie. We made our way to the fireplace to update each other on the ‘latest and trendiest’ while nibbling on cheese and crackers. Soon after, we were at the table. We passed the bread. We passed the salad. We said a prayer and made a toast. We ate the bolognaise sauce over pasta. We talked shop, critiqued the arts, bashed politics and politely disagreed. We headed back to the fireplace for coffee and apple pie. At 10:00, we said our goodbyes and I was spent. The night was a success but trying to keep things to perfection was more of a stress test than the joy of fellowship. Exhausted, I felt God tugging at my sleeve, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things but few things are needed – or indeed only one” (Luke 10:41-42a). I forgot about the Mary in me, who God delights in. Hence, I decided to put kitchen cleanup on hold till the next morning and carved out some quiet time with Him before slumbering off.
Next morning, there was a knock at my door that woke me up. My neighbor came to return my DVD. With outdoor temps in the low 30’s, I invited her in. While standing in my “tornado-blown” mess of a kitchen, I cleared off some space from the cluttered table, poured us both a cup of java and pulled out some leftover apple pie. Given I overslept, I canceled my workout. We both forked into the pie as we marveled about Denzel Washington’s performance in Fences, shared the latest about our families, updated each other on consignment sales and prayed over our daily devotion. And, then we couldn’t stop laughing because we decreed at that moment ‘fork to mouth’ will always beat working out. I looked at the clock and it was almost noon and I was still in my PJs. I was a mess. My kitchen was a mess. Yet, I was still and all was calm. God was smiling.
Rather than Martha, I need to be Mary to experience what matters most. “She has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42b). Creating hospitality does not have to be busy work nor does it have to be magazine perfect. Martha Stewart’s empire has its place, however, being a busy Martha before God is misplaced. Hospitality is in the heart. It is in the fellowship. “Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Now, for some apple pie!