When my pastor described in his sermon this morning the role that the biblical Priscilla had played in the founding of the church in Ephesus, this helped me appreciate how aptly named my own Priscilla was. Her parents’ decision in this matter might even be considered prophetic, since she came to have a ministry so similar to that of her namesake.
As my pastor explained, we see in the New Testament that Priscilla and her husband Aquila had “a ministry of inviting people into their home.” The church in Ephesus actually began as a house church that they hosted in anticipation of Paul’s later arrival in the city. When they needed to help Apollos, a scholar and orator visiting from Alexandria, understand better about Jesus, they “invited him to their home.” Earlier, when they were residents of Corinth, Paul joined forces with them, not only working at the same trade, but also “living with them.” And later, when Paul was anticipating that the next phase of his ministry would be in Rome, he sent this couple on ahead of him once again. In his letter to the Romans, Paul sends greetings to “Priscilla and Aquila,”as well as to “the church that meets in their house”—they’d already gotten to work!
What I came to appreciate this morning was that while both Priscillas had ministries that were based in their homes, their callings involved not settling down in one place for all or most of their lives, but instead moving to wherever they were needed. This meant that they had to create inviting homes over and over again in new places. That’s such a challenge that it helps us appreciate that hospitality really is a spiritual gift, energized by divine power. Many interpreters understand the apostle Peter to be saying in his first letter that it is such a gift: “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
And when we seek to use the gifts that God has given us for the ministries to which God has called us, we can count on God’s help all along the way. That was certainly my Priscilla’s experience. (I never once heard her “grumble” about offering hospitality!)
When we moved from Massachusetts to Michigan, from a house of one size and style and layout to a house that differed in each of those respects, Priscilla sorted through and deployed all of the things we’d brought, and finally announced that she needed just two more things to make this new house work for her hospitality ministry: a chest freezer and a dining room hutch. I described in an earlier post how, only a few days after this, someone asked us, “Do you know anyone who needs a freezer?” We gratefully accepted the one they wanted to give away.
The other item arrived shortly afterwards. That weekend some friends were visiting and we decided to take a walk around the neighborhood with them. We only got as far as the end of our block. There we saw a hutch that someone had left at the curb, meaning that anyone who wanted it could take it. It was dusty and peeling, and the pane of the glass door was broken. But Priscilla saw the potential.
With our friends’ help we were able to carry it home. Over the course of the next week she stripped, stained, and varnished it. We then went to a glass shop to get a replacement pane for the door. Leaving nothing to chance, Priscilla brought in the old pane, which had a large corner missing, and told the shop, “This exact size. But a full rectangle.” When the restoration was completed, the piece looked beautiful. I always appreciated the way God not only met this need (dropping off the hutch right at the end of our block!), but also let Priscilla use her skills and talents to be a full partner in the enterprise.
Actually, over and over again she got this kind of providential help with her ministry of “inviting people into her home.” When we’d finally saved a modest budget for living room furniture for our Massachusetts house, Priscilla wanted to get love seats. “Nobody ever sits in the middle cushion of a sofa,” she explained, “and that space is wasted.” She wanted to be able to entertain as many people as possible in the space she had available. And she wanted those loveseats to be leather. “If it’s fabric,” she noted, “and somebody spills something, it soaks right in. But with leather you have half a chance to pick up the spill before it stains.” Clearly she was picturing people sitting on this furniture with food and drink in their hands. But leather cost much more than fabric, and we weren’t sure what our budget would accommodate.
We went to a showroom and wandered around until we suddenly came upon a beautiful leather loveseat. It was dark burgundy, one of Priscilla’s favorite colors. And it was discounted 50% because it was a floor model. She just stood there staring at it. A clerk finally came up and asked, “May I help you?” “Not unless you’ve got another one of these,” she replied. “I’ll call my other store,” he said. A couple of days later two dark burgundy leather love seats, each at half price, were delivered to our home.
Okay, just one more story. Priscilla helped the two small windows in that living room look larger by making full-length curtains for each of their sides. She brought the fabric with her when we moved to Michigan. But now the entertaining space had one wide window and one sliding door. She had enough material to rework into curtains for the window, and she wanted to create matching ones for the door. But the fabric was by now long discontinued. We searched at length online but couldn’t even find a picture of what we wanted. Finally she called the manufacturer and was put through to customer service.
“I’m looking for one of your older fabrics,” Priscilla began, “but I don’t know the name of the pattern.” Then she started describing it: “It has a taupe stripe; two thin black stripes with a cream one in between; then a wide cream stripe . . .” and so on, all the way across the width of the pattern. The woman on the other end listened patiently and then said, “I think I know just what you mean.” She was able to locate one surviving bolt. “Send me everything you’ve got!” Priscilla said excitedly.
When the fabric arrived, it was just enough to make the curtains for the sliding door, with a little bit left over. She used that to make a matching tea cozy.