Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Hospitality of the Shepherd

In our Sunday evening gathering a couple of weeks ago, we were in Psalm 23. This is a familiar Psalm to many folks, and is a great source of comfort and encouragement. It is full of the imagery of a shepherd who takes good care of his sheep. As our shepherd, the Lord takes good care of us. We looked at the particular idea of God's hospitality to us, and how we can be hospitable in the same way.

An hospitable host makes sure her guests have everything they need, whether that be food or a place to stay. Because God is our shepherd there is nothing that we lack. There is no want. As our host, the shepherd provides a restful, safe place for us. Our time with him is restorative and builds us up spiritually. In the same way, we are called to be people who provide for the needs of others so that, as far as possible, there is no lack. Others should feel safe and at peace with us, and our time together is to be a time of restoration and strengthening.

When the Lord is our host and guide, we can go anywhere without fear, through the worst of circumstances, even death itself. We know that he is with us. He doesn't take us into those things and then leave us to fend for ourselves. Even though it may be hard for us to see at the time, out Father is there with us and is leading us. He comforts us, because there is nothing that we face that he hasn't been through in some way. As people of hospitality, we are to comfort others. Sometimes that comfort may take the form of simple presence, as we let them know they are not alone. Sometimes we can offer a word because we have been through something similar.

The last two verses of the psalm speak to me the most. Our shepherd does more than just give us what we need and lead us. He provides a lavish banquet for us right in the face of our enemies. He fills our cup to overflowing. He anoints us with oil so that it runs down all over us. His grace and mercy isn't just there for us. It follows us. I think you could say that it relentlessly pursues us. And then, our shepherd promises us that his lavish care for us will continue in his house forever! We have
an eternal home where we will continually feast with our Father and our Elder Brother.

As folks who have received a taste of this, we should be the ones who are generous in our giving to others. I have heard it said that Christians should throw the best parties and bring the finest wine. While there will be times of fasting and mourning, our times together should be times of feasting. We are people of the resurrection! If that's not a reason to celebrate, then we are sad people indeed. We should be people who invite our neighbors to join us in our feasting. Our caring and giving for others should be lavish, as the Father's is to us. We who have been given much should also give much.

Think of what it would be if the flock of the great Shepherd took the hospitality poured out on us and extended it to those around us.

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