Genesis 18:1-8

“The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground.

He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.”

And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.” Genesis 18:1-8

What happens at your home with you have first-time guests coming for dinner? You make sure the house is clean and orderly. You prepare a meal, a special meal, something other than what you might normally have for dinner. Then you wait for their arrival.

When the doorbell rings you greet your guests at the door. You smile, even laugh, as you shake their hands and welcome them into your home. You might say something like “Did you have any trouble finding the place?” They might say “You have a beautiful home.” Then you step back away from the door.

You let them know where the bathroom is. You offer them something to drink. You might show them around a bit in the main rooms where you’ll be together. You sit down for a conversation as the final details of the meal are put together. Then you share food together at the table. Afterwards, you spend some more time talking until it is time for the guests to leave.

What you might not be aware of is that through all of this you have been practicing the informal rules of your culture’s sense of “hospitality.” If all goes well, you don’t even notice what you are doing. But if the guests are rude, let’s say that as you show them around they ask to see what is in your closet, or if at the table they say, “I’m sorry but I really don’t like how this food tastes”, you will have a sharp and sudden sense that the “hospitality rules” have been broken!

When Abraham greeted these three strangers he was carefully following the hospitality rules of his culture. He rose to greet them, bowed in respect, cared for their needs, provided food and water. This was “desert hospitality” at its finest. In the stark arid world of the desert, such hospitality was often a matter of life and death.

The rules of desert hospitality went beyond providing food and water. In welcoming someone into his home the host was also assuming responsibility for their safety and the well-being. This was a very serious matter and it was taken seriously for thousands of years. Thus the idea of showing hospitality to strangers, of seeing to the needs of foreigners and wayfarers, appears again and again in the Bible. It was written into the laws of the Torah. It was spoken by the prophets. It was practiced by Jesus.

Remember this the next time you receive Holy Communion – that Jesus, the Host of the meal, has welcomed you into his home, has provided you food and drink, and now assures you of his continued protection.

Remember this as well as you read stories in the news about how international refugees or undocumented workers are treated. Hospitality remains a matter of life and death for many people. And, as we heard yesterday in Hebrews, by showing hospitality to strangers we might have entertained angels without knowing it.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, Abraham welcomed three strangers with kindness and respect. That could have been dangerous but he did it anyway. As we seek to do your will in our lives, give us opportunities to welcome and engage people who are very different from us. Help us treat strangers with respect. Bless those who depend on the hospitality of strangers as they seek new lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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One Response to “Genesis 18:1-8”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    You speak of how to treat refugees and undocumented aliens, but aren’t these people uninvited guests who come into your home without your consent, against your wishes? Although you are bound to treat them as you would treat Christ, you still have the right to ask, and in some cases force, therm to leave to rightfully protect your home and family. And be clear, there is a significant difference between someone who comes to your door asking for entrance and help, and the person who sneaks in without welcome, sits on your couch and demands chips, salsa and a beer.

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