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Review by Thomas Eglinton
Part memoir, part theology, all very readable and engaging, in The Gospel Comes with a House Key, Rosaria Butterfield invites us to take a look through the window into the beautiful place that is her home. The book is about what 'radically ordinary hospitality' looks like and where it comes from.
By telling stories about her own experiences of 'radically ordinary hospitality', Rosaria stirred in me a desire to have the sort of community she described. I loved how each story was followed by a discussion on the theology of the practice the story had just introduced.
Throughout the book Rosaria covers topics such as the sovereignty of God in choosing our neighbours, dealing with sin both inside and outside the church, what we should think about protecting ourselves from 'dangerous' neighbours and even the practical elements of what to cook.
My wife commented about this book as she was reading it - 'there are so many great sentences in here'. Sentences like these:
"My lists are not set in stone; they are set in grace, organised around people and their needs and their special pain and deep wounds and unbearable secrets"
"This transition from stranger to neighbour to family does not happen naturally but only with intent and grit and sacrifice and God's blessing"
"I pray the works of my hands and heart will shape a place where Jesus lays his head, as strangers and friends fill my table and hear the words of life as we break bread together"
This last quote is a perfect segue into a couple of things about Rosaria's hospitality that struck me.
Her hospitality is soaked in prayer. We see in her life as described in these pages a great neighbourhood community and we can be tempted to pursue something similar by carefully noting the methods of invitation, the schedules and the app (yes there is an app!). Critically, however, we should start our endeavours by praying for our neighbours, and as you will find Rosaria does, with our neighbours as well.
The second thing is the centrality of the word of God to the Butterfield's hospitality. When we have guests over, I will often forego our evening devotion thinking that it might make our guests uncomfortable. What we see as we look into the Butterfield home is the Bible sitting (open) on the table right next to the rice and beans and chicken soup. Unashamedly.
I will finish with this - I think many of us (if not all) yearn for a Christianity like the one Rosaria describes. The Gospel Comes with a House Key finishes with the question 'what if?'. What if Christian's lived 'radically ordinary hospitable' lives where they genuinely cared for and loved their neighbours, opening their homes and hearts? Well, to some extent, this book answers that question.
So I encourage you, sneak across the front lawn, tread carefully past the petunias and take a peak inside the Butterfield's house. But be careful, you may be challenged, encouraged or even changed.