Hospitality

rsz_ragbraiI just returned from a weeklong bike ride across Iowa known as RAGBRAI. That’s “Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa”. It’s the oldest, largest and longest bicycle touring event in the world. Nearly 20,000 riders pedal five hundred miles over hills, into headwinds and through horrendous heat and humidity. All of which should raise a simple question in your mind, “Why would any sane human being do such a thing?”

I suppose there are lots of reasons including an incredible sense of accomplishment. And pie. But the real reason that this event is so popular boils down to the incredible hospitality of the people of Iowa.

Communities plan for months to make our visit awesome and memorable.

Local bands and cheerleading squads greet you in every town as early as 6:00 AM.

Hundreds of local residents line the streets of every town to cheer you on.

Iowa bicycle shops travel with the riders to repair bikes along the way for a fraction of the cost of my local bike shop.

State Highway Patrol members monitor every major intersection.

Local artists create incredible bicycle sculptures.

Libraries, schools and businesses welcome overheated riders into their air conditioned spaces.

Iowans open their homes, their lawns and their restrooms for riders.

And did I mention the pie? Blackberry, blueberry, peach, apple, rhubarb, strawberry, cherry, pecan. I think every church lady in Iowa bakes themselves into a lather.

I’m honestly not sure I’ve ever felt more welcomed anywhere than I do in Iowa during RAGBRAI. That’s why riders endure hills, heat, headwinds and humidity, not to mention weary legs and wicked sore bottoms. We do it because the people of Iowa draw us with an irresistible hospitality.

All of which makes me wonder a bit about our churches. I don’t want to diminish the importance of good preaching, quality programming, sharp staff and nice facilities, but at the end of the day I wonder if it won’t be the irresistible hospitality of Jesus expressed through the people of God that will really draw people in.

And I suppose pie wouldn’t hurt either.

When have you experienced irresistible hospitality? How can you express Jesus’ welcome to others?

Jeff Marian is lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN

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  • Ken Walter

    My sense of hospitality would be where I have no fears. My fear is about insecurity. So hospitality would be where I am physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually secure or a certain hospitality may be in any one or combination of these areas of my being. When I ran marathons it was the cheering and the water at those locations along the way, in other words support for my body and spirit needs. Of course it helped me that I had the experience of practice running long distances. It grew some in seeing my name, city, and time in the newspaper. When an infant my mother and father were my source of security which was providing all these areas of need in a very very basic way. So without wondering on in words irresistible hospitality is that love coming at me meeting all my needs at the moment and so I feel completely secure. So is the greatest hospitality when one believes in the heart and spirit that Jesus in His love for me went to the cross for me, took all my sins with him to remove my fears, Death came to Him on the cross and so all my sins died there, and then His resurrection free of all that sin and able to communicate, come and go, talk and eat in view and in ghost like form, to give me the certainty that by receiving the gift of faith in God, my creator, I can receive this irresistible gift of life in the kingdom of God. Why do I have so much trouble living that kind of security? Why do I let so many things of this world be more irresistible? Even with Spiritual signs and wonders from the Holy Spirit, and witness from the Word and others, I still have those doubtful times and stray away in care for my body, in thoughts negative, in emotions of fear and shame, in fearing death. Finally irresistible hospitality is about receiving love in some way and feeling in my heart a deep appreciation for who is giving that love and an overflow of my heart for that who or what and it is usually in a tangible way. Jesus love comes on a spiritual plane, not very tangible, so maybe that is my difficulty, not really understanding, not really appreciating, not really having a foundation of being in the spiritual???