Enzymes and Hospitality

I confess: I’m a small science nerd. I’m not one to read books about the subject but I do love watching biological processes at work and taking note of the way the laws of physics govern our world.

My love and fascination for enzymes, especially, has not faded. Enzymes are catalysts that expedite chemical reactions. When atoms combine to form new molecules, often enzymes are the workhorses making that it happen. The enzymes are not a part of the new molecule, but they bring the elements together and make them happier. Nature provides a facilitator to move things along and bring things together that otherwise may not have bumped up against each other.

Enzymes create an active site for two substrates to connect. The enzyme brings these substrates together until they can meld into a new product. The new product releases from the enzyme, allowing the enzyme to reset its active site and prepare for new substrates. Isn’t that beautiful?

When we engage in the ministry of hospitality, we do the work of an enzyme. We set a table, dress up our lawn, arrange plates and napkins, and prepare food. We make ready our active site. Then our guests, our substrates, arrive. Some of the guests know each other and share a bond already but others will be meeting for the first time. They will introduce themselves, get to know each other, and form a new bond. By the time they leave, these substrates are in relationship with one another and we, the hosts and catalysts, can clean and reset the active site for another meeting.

Case in point: Recently we had a group of people to our house to celebrate our son’s birthday and mark Oktoberfest. There were people from four different parts of our lives in attendance. Once all of our guests had arrived and dinner was served, I walked around to watch and listen. On the deck, a family new to the area visited with school families and church members, learning why we all love Rabun Gap and Saint James. On the lawn, the parent of a kindergartener visited with a fifth-grade teacher. The parent called me over and said, “My new BFF!” wrapping her arm around the teacher. “We had the same nickname growing up! We’re just finding out what else we have in common.”

Yesterday, I happened to be on Facebook and saw a friend of ours of fifteen years comment on the post of another friend of twenty-two years. The two people live in different parts of the country and would not know each other were it not for our wedding thirteen years ago. Now, they are friends.

Enzymatic activity at work.

I feel the same way about being a priest, especially around the altar. So much of my job is connecting people so that ministry can grow out of their new relationship, organically and dynamically. I hear someone shares an interest that matches another person’s resources and my job is to bring them together to talk and see if a new product might result from our efforts. Similarly, I set the table on Sunday morning for the congregation to gather around and be fed by God. The action of gathering at the altar creates a new product: the body of Christ. I’m not the host, simply the catalyst. And I love this work.

I sometimes hear people either degrade themselves or one another around the art of hospitality. Some people say they couldn’t host people to their houses because they aren’t perfect and can’t create the “perfect” environment. Similarly, people will criticize someone for hosting parties because they want to “show off” their fashionable houses and perfect abilities to pull off a gathering.

These thoughts are wrong and, in the process, we are discouraging one another from performing one of the most fundamental ministries there is. Welcoming each other through acts of hospitality is a primary ministry that gives birth to many more. I don’t delight in having people into my home because I get to show it off. To the contrary, I don’t make extra efforts to have everything looking perfect or even tidy. I simply love seeing people meet, laugh, connect, eat well, and leave happier than when they came and with new bonds and relationships.

In an age of isolation and alienation, could we not do with some more enzymes? Do we not need more catalysts for bringing people together rather than fewer? To that end, I encourage you, brothers and sisters, to consider the ministry of hospitality. Consider creating active sites where new products might be formed. We hunger for connection and relationship, renewal and purpose. This does not happen if we do not first get people together. Won’t you partner with me, then, in some enzymatic activity?

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