Sociologists might suggest that Jews do hospitality so well because they have spent so many centuries being the stranger and the friendless. It is also true that Jewish (and so also Christian) sacred Scripture is thick with the practice of hospitality. More than once, God instructs His people to welcome the stranger because ‘you were strangers in the land of Egypt…Early Christian communities continued these practices of hospitality, attempting to feed the poor, host travelers, visit the imprisoned, invite widows and orphans to join them at mealtime — all expressions of a capacious notion of hospitality.”
–Lauren Winner in Mudhouse Sabbath
Last month I had the opportunity to venture to Denver and attend the Portland Timbers first ever match as an MLS team. I had high aspirations for the trip, and it lived up to most of them. Certainly, there was one part of the trip that exceeded all expectations…the pregame tailgate.
For this particular match, somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 members of the Timbers Army descended on Denver for the match. Most rolled in from Portland, but there were a handful of us exiles who made our way from the far reaches of the country. We made for quite the conspicuous mass. Clad in green. Proudly Portland weird. It was quite the crew.
While it was a big night for the Timbers Army, it was also a big night for the Colorado Rapids supporters. The Rapids won the MLS cup last year, and were celebrating their well-earned victory this particular night. You could forgive them if they were too preoccupied to notice the new kids. They had victories to revel in and a top-dog status that it was their right to properly invoke.
That night the Colorado supporters enjoyed themselves. But you know what? They also went out of their way to make sure that we enjoyed ourselves as well. One particular group (The Bulldog Supporters Group) opened up their local watering hole to the Timbers Army. They invited the entire Timbers Army to their customary pregame tailgate celebration. Instead of smoking one hog, they smoked two. They more than doubled the amount of libation they usually keep on hand for matchday. It was a feast fit for a king, and they were totally cool with the foreigners and aliens crashing their party. In fact, they insisted on it.
To understand this in its full context, you need to know that the Timbers Army has a reputation. We’re a bit rowdy. Some might say obnoxious. And when you roll like that into someone else’s crib, they can be understandably defensive. Where any response ranging from ambivalence to mild hostility would have been expected and accepted, they opened up their arms and embraced the opponent in their own house while absolutely lavishing us. It was pure class. Even the song/chant war that broke out at the end of the meal was good-natured in its enthusiasm. It was like a jovial soccer version of West Side Story.
One mark of maturity and depth is the ability to be a gracious host. When done right, it can be an embodiment of healthy humility. It shows that we are grounded in the reality that what we have is not our own and that we have been showered with acts of grace and mercy along our own journeys. And if shows that we aren’t so full of ourselves as to be overcome by narcissism to the point where we are blinded to opportunities to love.
I’ll know I’ve reached a point of spiritual maturity when I can be a gracious host to L*kers and S*unders fans. I have some growing to do before I’m to that place, however.
Renew and Restore