Archive for October, 2015

October 1, 2015

Entertaining Angels Unawares (October)

We all have certain verses that capture our imaginations and inspire us to be more like Jesus in this world. Since I was old enough to read, one of these verses has been from the letter to the Hebrews: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2 NIV) I know some of us have stories that tell of a stranger crossing our paths who we suspected as being one of these angels. That verse suddenly and unexpectedly becomes real in our lives.

As I grew older, I realized that the writer of Hebrews was pointing back to certain stories in the Old Testament where angels visited their forefathers. Three strangers visit Abraham in Genesis 18. In the next chapter, two strangers visit Lot. In both cases, the hospitality of Abraham and Lot are praised, and the inhospitality of others condemned. If it happened then, it can happen today, and we are called to show hospitality to the stranger.

As I meditated on this verse recently, I was reminded of the 12 million Syrian people fleeing their war-torn nation. I thought of the Syrian and Iraqi Christians fleeing their homes from ISIS. I remembered the millions of Hispanic immigrants fleeing from destitute and violent circumstances to the US. Their very presence in this country has become a major political topic, one I hope will open the door to the Gospel and Jesus’ example. Many of these immigrants we know; they live on our street as neighbors. Many more are strangers to us.

If angels were to walk the earth today, it is no far stretch that they would come as a Mexican immigrant or as a Syrian refugee. It gives me pause and challenges me to ask if I would practice hospitality to those people like Abraham and Lot did. It gives me even greater pause when I imagine my Lord watching to see if I extend as much hospitality to them as Jesus has done for me.

But the matter is even more poignant when Jesus begins discussing the matter. In Matthew, he says in so many words that it may not just be an angel but Jesus himself in the face of the stranger. In a parable where Jesus assumes the role of the King, he says, “I was a stranger and you invited me in…. Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Mat 25:35, 40 NIV) Isn’t it just like Jesus, our King and Lord, to be found not among the great but among the least? Isn’t it just like Jesus to be found in an immigrant community or a refugee camp?

I am encouraged to see people in the US and Europe stand up on behalf of the stranger and offer hospitality in these dire circumstances. I hope that the Church can lead the world in the work. Mount Hermon can do this very thing in our community, being an example to others as we invite the stranger in and show them the love of Jesus.

Pastor Rich