Genesis 18:1-8 Welcoming the stranger in our midst
The Lord appeared to Abraham at the sacred trees of Mamre. As Abraham was sitting at the entrance of his tent during the hottest part of the day, he looked up and saw three men standing there. As soon as he saw them, he ran out to meet them. Bowing down with his face touching the ground, he said, “Sirs, please do not pass by my home without stopping; I am here to serve you. Let me bring some water for you to wash your feet; you can rest here beneath this tree. I will also bring a bit of food; it will give you strength to continue your journey. You have honoured me by coming to my home, so let me serve you.”
They replied, “Thank you; we accept.”
Abraham hurried into the tent and said to Sarah, “Quick, take a sack of your best flour, and bake some bread.” Then he ran to the herd and picked out a calf that was tender and fat, and gave it to a servant, who hurried to get it ready. He took some cream, some milk, and the meat, and set the food before the men. There under the tree he served them himself, and they ate.
Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, heal those who suffer from dreaded skin diseases, and drive out demons. You have received without paying, so give without being paid. Do not carry any gold, silver, or copper money in your pockets; 1do not carry a beggar’s bag for the trip or an extra shirt or shoes or a walking stick. Workers should be given what they need.
“When you come to a town or village, go in and look for someone who is willing to welcome you, and stay with him until you leave that place. When you go into a house, say, ‘Peace be with you.’ If the people in that house welcome you, let your greeting of peace remain; but if they do not welcome you, then take back your greeting. And if some home or town will not welcome you or listen to you, then leave that place and shake the dust off your feet.
Jesus calls us to keep our eyes, ears and hearts open to all. Our actions are to be welcoming, with generous hospitality, as we serve with humble hearts, healing hands, with justice and equity. In ancient times, when stepping on another’s land, generous hospitality treated the visitor as a cherished friend or as one of the family. As a visitor, you bring peace, and leave in peace. If you are not welcomed, you shake of the dust, and leave their ‘land’ with them, not carrying anything literally away with you, nor harbouring ill-will in your heart. ‘Shaking off the dust’ reminds us of two aspects of being people of peace – leaving behind ill-will and inhospitable or judging behaviour and neither adopting it; and acting with justice, equity, humility, kindness and unconditional love.
This year, and in these last few weeks particularly, we have been reminded that all lives matter. We have witnessed publicly that actions do not always allow this to be realised.
As churches together, where do we speak into this community space? As individual Christians, how can we help shape our relationships to be bringers of peace and justice? What ‘dust’ do we need to shake off? How do we robe ourselves in active love and peace?
May we ‘shake off’ all the inequitable, unjust, judgemental, inhospitable ways that leave another isolated, vulnerable, in need and unwelcome.
May our prayerful actions and welcoming hospitality, like Abraham, reflect the gracious, generous and heartfelt effort to enfold all people of God with abundant and unconditional love and care.
I recognise the misuse of your love and the cautiousness of my welcome.
Forgive me, for I am not living as a person of peace.
Where has it gone?
The unconditional welcome hospitality for all?
When did I first let it slip
and let the dust cloud my faithful action?
Who has torn the tent?
The dwelling space of safety and warming love for all?
What has hindered my responses,
so that injustice and inequality flourish around me?
Why has your way of being been misconstrued?
Twisted, to not include all?
How can I change my ways,
to shake off the dust of conditional love and injustice
that clings deeply and stains my being and living?
heal my ways and wash me clean,
so that my thinking, doing, loving and being
is refreshed and renewed to reveal your unconditional, gracious love.
Let your warming Spirit melt my cold habits
and draw me to the fire of living justice and equity.
Brother Jesus, teach me again how to live as a peace-bringer,
who welcomes the whole people of God,
raises a voice of justice for those who are voiceless
and reaches out with healing and generous hands.
Amen, amen, amen.
Rev Anne Hewitt