“Be sure to welcome strangers into your home. By doing this, some people have welcomed angels as guests, without even knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).
There is a story told about Abraham (Gen 18). Abraham is sitting in front of a tent. He raises his head and there are three men standing near him. When he sees them he runs to meet them and bows. Abraham hurries to find food; he kneels before his hosts, washes their feet, gives them bread and milk. These are the eternal gestures; the sacraments of hospitality. The vagrant, the wanderer, far from being despised, oppressed, murdered becomes the occasion for an encounter with God. So while Abraham thinks he is greeting strangers, we know that he is actually encountering God.
We are all born with the gift of hospitality that Abraham shows to the strangers. Until we are taught differently, hospitality comes as a natural instinct. Have you ever watched the reaction of a six to twelve month old child, when they are given something? The child will perhaps enjoy the gift briefly, but then he or she will give the gift back to you, with a smile and possibly a hug. You then give it back and she is full of joy and then returns the gift to you. The game continues of giving and receiving.
As part of the United Church of Christ we have accepted that we are a community that welcomes the stranger that welcomes the lost, the hurt, and the rejected. We have declared ourselves a community of welcome. What does that mean for a church community? When we open the door to a needy neighbor, a weary sister or brother, a stranger in distress, we will begin to hear the knock of angels. In the midst of this practice we will catch glimpses of a God who asks for our welcome and also welcomes us home.
Welcoming God, gently nudge us share your hospitality with the lost, the rejected, the neighbor. Amen.