My ministry is dependent on hospitality. When I walk into a homeless encampment or set up chaffing dishes for the community dinner, I am both the host and the guest. The Spirit of God is given and received through the radical practice of mutual hospitality. When strangers welcome each other, the comfort and care of the Holy Spirit is evident. Our hearts are strengthened and nourished by the mutual love of relationships. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:2 NSRV).”
My ministry is simple and uncomplicated. Every Thursday I stop by the St Francis House for coffee. It is a drop-in center that offers clothing, household items, and other resources helpful to those in need. I show up around noon, sit in the cafe, and wait for someone to start talking to me. This week it is busier than usual. All the tables are full and there are several folks waiting to access the clothing room. No one is talking to me. Over the years I have become incredibly comfortable sitting in what most would call awkward silence. After the room clears out, a man in his fifty’s waves at me and cheerfully shouts, “Good morning, Father!” What follows is Ian’s story. A story of God’s miraculous healing power. Ian had a heart attack in rehab and an angel of the Lord saved his life. As the story unfolds, memories of nurse’s shaving his chest, and the warm presence of God, are punctuated with the joyful laughter of gratitude. As we continue to talk, we realize that a church that hosts a community dinner has been instrumental in Ian’s recovery. After rehab and nowhere to go, the church welcomed Ian into their lives. They paid for a few nights in a motel and connected him to a housing case manager. Ian helps serve and volunteers at the dinner. The church literally embraced him. Ian tells me about how he has a statue by the door of his new apartment of an angel hugging a child. To go from being homeless and having a heart attack to being healed and housed is truly a miracle.
My ministry isn’t my ministry. As the St Francis House is cleaning up and closing, Ian tells me that he prays that God would hug all the people who are hurting and in pain. He tells me that the armor of God is a hug. That God battles the despair and hopelessness of addiction by wrapping his arms around us. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-14).” Ian and I exchange numbers and hug, putting on the full armor of God!