“Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf [banquet] with hatred.”
That is what Proverbs 15:16 says about hospitality. At Tenth’s Mercy Dinners we provide both the love and the banquet for our homeless guests. Our hospitality offers an elaborate dinner and a commitment to provide a welcome, a relationship, and the Good News of Jesus Christ to all who come.
According to “The Risk of Hospitality” (Modern Reformation, October 2011),
Practicing hospitality and loving the stranger is a disposition. We practice hospitality in light of our expectations of eternity (the wedding feast of the Lamb) and in response to the gospel, not as a strategic way to get an immediate return on an investment. Being hospitable means that our hearts are genuinely, generously, open to others. Our guests are usually able to discern if they are being offered hospitality that is primarily a strategic technique. They sense whether we are being coercive and manipulative. We offer hospitality in light of our eschatological expectations.
Luke 4:12-14 says, “When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” In her book Making Room, Christine Pohl says similarly, “God’s guest list includes a disconcerting number of poor and broken people, those who appear to bring little to any gathering except their need.”
The distinctive quality of the Community Dinner hospitality is that on the second Sunday of the month we offer a generous welcome to the “least of these.” This reflects God’s greater hospitality that welcomes the undeserving, provides for the lonely, and sets a banquet table for the hungry.
Here is what a former volunteer said about the dinners:
I learned that by just listening to the conversation around me at the start of the meal, I can find plenty to talk about. And when the conversation centers on the gospel, it is amazing how much we all have in common. I am constantly humbled by the sin struggles that we all share. Hosting every month has allowed me to really build relationships with some of these amazing people. I know about the jobs that they have or are trying to get, what their likes and dislikes are, and why they love Philadelphia. They know about my school experiences, that I love coffee, and why I love Philadelphia. Most importantly, we know that we have an amazing God who is gracious to save regardless of worldly stature. Not everyone who I eat with is saved, but they ask questions about God and about what he has done in our lives, and so our testimonies are going forth in a powerful way. When these men, who in the world’s eyes have nothing, discuss how they struggle to be more humble, it is an amazing testimony to the grace of God in all things.
Tenth’s Mercy Dinners seek to minister to the needs of our neighbors who are poor, homeless, or who otherwise feel the effects of physical or emotional poverty. Some have succumbed to alcohol or other drug abuse, some suffer from abuse in the home, some grieve the loss of a spouse either by death or divorce, some suffer loneliness or depression, and some suffer alienation from their families. What they all have in common, though, is a lack of hope.
As a Bible-teaching church, Tenth is uniquely equipped to offer hope in Christ. As citizens of a heavenly kingdom, we know what it is like to be strangers, and many of us have known hopelessness, too. We are strangers welcoming strangers and hopeful people offering hospitality as an essential part of our Christian walk.
I urge you to pray about what part you can play in Tenth’s Mercy Dinners. Prayerfully consider how you can be good stewards in this ministry of hospitality. The Mercy Dinners are every second Sunday at 2 pm in Fellowship Hall. For more information contact David Apple or call him at 215-735-7688 x224.