A Brief Review of
Come To My Table: God’s Hospitality and Yours
Sue Moore Donaldson
Reviewed by Sara Sterley
Hospitality is a loaded issue in these days of Martha Stewart, Pinterest, and a whole host of other blogs, personalities, and magazines. I love to cook and host friends at our house, but I didn’t really connect those passions to hospitality until more recently and certainly until after reading Come To My Table. I’m coming to think of hospitality as a cornerstone of our faith, and I think we need to reclaim hospitality from the lofty Pinterest ideal.
A fine first step in the reclamation would be reading Sue Moore Donaldson’s Come To My Table: God’s Hospitality and Yours. Donaldson argues convincingly that hospitality has much more to do with a welcoming and open heart than it does with matching napkins and fancy food, despite Martha’s messages to the contrary. For Donaldson, hospitality is a commandment for disciples of Christ; entertaining is the stuff of Pinterest (which is certainly comforting to those of us like myself who find Pinterest anxiety-inducing).
Donaldson spends the first section of Come To My Table illustrating – both from scripture and from personal stories – the call to hospitality for all Christians, not just the extroverts. She asks that we just get in the game and not not worry too much about the details:
Hosting and inviting and welcoming are part of Jesus’ nature. So, to be more like Him, we host and invite and welcome. We do it imperfectly because we’re not quite as good as His is; we make mistakes but we go ahead and try because we want to be like Him.
Donaldson found that the most common excuse people use for not practicing hospitality is that it wasn’t modeled in their families, which I found especially compelling as a parent of young children. “When we are hospitable,” claims Donaldson, “we train our families to be God’s welcome in this world.” I wonder how different our communities would look if we took the call to hospitality more seriously, as Donaldson clearly and convincingly calls us to do.
Donaldson spends the rest of (and the bulk of) the book describing extremely practical ways to make hospitality a regular part of our everyday lives, which is what sets apart Come To My Table from the few other books that I have read related to hospitality. Using self-deprecating humor and personal stories, Donaldson comes across as someone you would love to have over for tea. She isn’t pretentious, demanding, or guilt-inducing. While I do enjoy having friends and family over to our home, Donaldson’s gentle coaxing spurred me to up my game, to widen my circles, to be willing to get a bit uncomfortable.
In addition to answering the questions of why and how in terms of practicing hospitality, Donaldson also intersperses simple, but delicious-sounding recipes throughout the book. The recipes contain easy-to-find ingredients and easy-to-follow instructions, so, while the novice may find the recipes more helpful, the more experienced cook would still appreciate experimenting with them.
Come To My Table is a practical handbook that compels the reader to make the practice of hospitality a spiritual discipline just like any other discipline and, subsequently, a more regular part of their week. As Sue Moore Donaldson concludes:
[We] welcome like God welcomes when we introduce our guests to Jesus. When we bring them to Jesus by the way we serve them, by the way we love them, by letting them know that God loves them no matter what they’ve done or where they’ve been. We don’t forgive their sins, but we know the Forgiver, and we make the introductions.