A Christian View of Hospitality: Expecting Surprises

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By Michele Hershberger. (Scottdale, Pennsylvania: Herald Press, 1999), ISBN: 083619099, 284 pp., $10 US paperback
Review by Marta Poling-Goldenne, director for witness ministries in the Division for Congregational Ministries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America

Michele Hershberger plumbs the depths of Scripture, contemporary church life, ancient and current cultural rituals, and the ever-present abundance of God’s grace in this must-read book. A Christian View of Hospitality invites the reader to reexamine well-read biblical texts through the lens of extraordinary attention to the stranger/guest, the host, and God.

The book is delightful combination of devotional refreshment for the haggard parish pastor, often inundated by sad life tales, and spiritual “a-ha” moments for preachers who seek a new look at common lectionary texts. It evokes both laughter and sighs as the reader journeys on a new road toward understanding hospitality in congregational and personal stewardship, evangelism, and worship.

Each chapter skillfully weaves concepts of biblical hospitality into the fabric of everyday life, folklore, history, theology, and church practice. It is a book about the power of Christian community to shape and transform lives at the core of existence and self-understanding. It is a book about the power of God’s love to forever change us into people ready and eager to welcome the surprises God wants to bring into our lives through the gifts of unexpected guests and strangers. It is a book that invites readers to step out of the known into the vast experiences of life which God, the Great Host, wants to give us.

The book will be a source of tremendous refreshment to parish pastors, lay church workers, and members of stewardship and evangelism teams in congregations. It is rich with preaching possibilities and ideas for small group study or adult discipleship training. Get your hands on this book if you want or need refreshment for the work of loving people, known and unknown, whom God brings into your life in need of Christian hospitality.

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