By Bren Dubay
An image worthy of contemplation — the Father speaks the Son; the Son is the perfect image of the Father; the Father and Son look at each other; the love that they breathe back and forth is the Holy Spirit.
This past Sunday was Pentecost Sunday. We celebrate the Holy Spirit descending on the Apostles giving them the courage to go forth. Koinonia takes a deep breath and prays, “Come, Holy Spirit, come.” And we prepare to throw open our doors and emerge from this long, strange, pandemic time.
Offering welcome is central to who we are. Koinonia has been a house of hospitality since its beginnings in 1942. From my office window, I can see the front drive. I have been haunted by the view these past fourteen months. The steady stream of vehicles pulling in and pulling out has been absent.
Christine Pohl writes in her article Hospitality, A Practice and a Way of Life, “The Bible is rich with accounts of hospitality and with encouragement toward its practice. Whether we open to the story of Abraham, Sarah, and the angels (Genesis 18) or to the account of the widow of Zarephath and Elijah (1 Kings 17), we cannot miss the blessing and mystery that accompany the practice.”
She reminds us that hospitality is at the center of Jesus’ life and ministry: “Jesus is both guest and host, dependent on others for welcome and startingly gracious in his welcome to outsiders, seekers, and sinners. Meals were central … and a shared meal soon became the center point of Christian worship.”
Koinonia carries on the ancient tradition of hospitality where “strangers, Jesus, and angels [are] welcomed and through which people [are] transformed.” Koinonia is not part of the hospitality industry. Though grateful for that industry, Koinonia is not a restaurant or a hotel. Hospitality for us is a “moral practice” and an “expression of kindness, mutual aid, neighborliness, and a response to the life of faith.”
I like to think of our hospitality as Spirit-inspired. We accompany our guests and know that they accompany us. Spiritual accompaniment is not always glorious or convenient. There’s a farm to run, social justice to strive for, services to deliver, and more, but offering welcome keeps us grounded and leads us ever closer to God. It slows us down. It helps to cultivate within us the ability to listen, to listen with the heart. Recognizing the ache in people’s hearts helps us to recognize the ache in our own. Discovering the laughter in people’s souls helps to remind us of the laughter in our own. Touching the spirit of another helps us to be more aware of the ever-present Holy Spirit, to be more diligent about calling on that Spirit as we accompany and are accompanied.
There is a rhythm to welcoming guests that we’ve sorely missed these many months. But, honestly, their return means the return of heavy sighs at least occasionally. When the days are long, the work too hard, and our inadequacies dominate our thoughts, the heavy sighs will come. When they do, I pray we will remember that the Holy Spirit is the sigh of perfect love. We are to accompany our guests and each other the best we can. Though our love is imperfect, our guests and our life together give us a chance to practice, practice, practice.
Living a way of life where the central practice is the practice of love is nothing short of amazing. May our heavy sighs be turned into sighs of love.
Come, Holy Spirit, come.