These two young, thoughtful people asked Paula and me questions about life and choices, balance and family. The time passed quickly. We answered the best we could between helpings of pan-fried salmon, grilled asparagus, refilled glasses of homemade lemonade, and a sweet summer salad with fresh oranges and crunchy nuts. We said yes to their invitation because they were kind enough to invite us into their home. We left their table a few hours later, full and fulfilled. Their apartment was small. The chairs didn’t match. The glasses were mason jars. The decor was simple. The hospitality was extravagant. Traditions to feed the soul F ood is what we have in common with the more than 7 billion people around the world. Food is the centerpiece of most gatherings and celebrations. My mother’s kitchen was her canvas, as she created from-scratch masterpieces of handmade Swedish meatballs, homemade bread, and raspberry pie. At our supper table when I was a boy, we’d have guests whose names I can’t recall but whose stories I can’t forget. The meals at our home were often gatherings of strangers: missionaries and itinerant evangelists and church planters. My mother’s kind meals warmed the conver- sations, especially among the guests who were the “every tongue and tribe and nation” sort. Sometimes “every tongue” meant I didn’t under- stand much of what they were saying, but we opened the table anyway. Long after my mother is gone, she will be remembered for her kindness that showed up in cinnamon buns and baked macaroni. And that is a worthy tribute. Later, after Paula and I were married, we spent seven years serving at a small Greek church just outside of Boston. It was a weekend gig where I pastored the English-speaking, second-generation parishioners. Once a month after church we had a banquet. The grandmothers and mothers and aunties, gloved in hot pads, carted their best Greek dishes into the church. The small fellow- ship hall, illuminated by fluorescent lights, its aisles of folding tables lined with metal chairs, morphed into an epic Mediterranean feast. What was ordinary for these immigrant fami- lies was extraordinary for Paula and me: the spanakopita and moussaka, the feta and the sou- vlaki, the grilled lamb and the kalamata olives and the tzatziki, all piled high on my plate as if it were a platter. Over the meal, old men told stories of the homeland, grandmas scooped out helping upon helping, church children taught our children questionable Greek phrases, and then we went back for more. The Greeks, from their generosity and out of their love, taught us a lot about hospitality. It’s no wonder that when Paul talks about leaders in the church, hospitality is among the highest virtues (see 1 Timothy 3:2). For this modern Greek church, as well as for the early Greek church, the kindness of hospital- ity showed up in the form of a meal. It was never the grandeur of the hospitality but always the heart of the hospitality. Hospitality is the act of opening what we have—as much or as little—and sharing it with someone else. Meals put people at ease and lower anxieties. One time, as they said goodbye at the end of a supper at our home, a group of international stu- dents told Paula and me that hosting them for a meal was among the highest forms of hospitality. I’ve been welcomed for meals around the world by families of modest means, who could not afford to take me to a restaurant, but they were honored to host me in their homes. I was even more honored to be invited. 28 WWW.AGRM.ORG JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2018 I’ve been welcomed for meals around the world by families of modest means, who could not afford to take me to a restaurant, but they were honored to host me in their homes.