“And the Lord appeared unto (Abram) in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, And said, ‘My Lord, if now I have found favour in they sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant; Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.”…And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said ‘Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth.’”
Genesis 18: 1-8
King James Version
“Sarai: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”
“To welcome a fellow man is to welcome the Shekhinah (Divine presence).” - Jewish Proverb
Is my heart open, with a “welcome” sign, offering help to those in need of my love and care?
“The fragrance always remains in the hand that gives the rose.” - Heda Bejar
“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”
Hebrews 13: 2
I hope you won’t mind but I’m going to brag for one moment, about my husband Jim! This past year we were married 30 years. (We married very young!)
From the first time I met Jim, I could tell this was a person of unusual warmth and kindness. Time has only served to prove me correct, for Jim is by far one of the kindest and most generous people I have ever known. I believe he inherited his loving heart from his immigrant parents who came to the United States in the 1950’s and struggled by working two and three jobs each to keep food on the table and a roof over their families’ head. Jim’s mom and dad, at great personal sacrifice, did all they could to give their children opportunities they never had. And, they succeeded in every way.
With this Godly upbringing, it is no surprise that despite the devastating injuries Jim sustained in our car accident, the one thing that wasn’t crushed was his generous heart. It remains perfectly intact – thank God! And again recently, Jim’s open heart and hand reminded me that God walks the earth, just as He did in the days of Abraham and Sarah, encouraging us to open our tents to those around us.
Please let me explain! I was at one of the largest food banks in the country participating in a planning session designed to inform people of the great needs of the hungry – right in our own country.
Jim came to pick me up and when he parked the car, he saw a small family – father, mother and baby daughter – walking out of the food bank with a box of food. They were smiling and as they walked by the car, Jim felt impressed (as he later told me) to call them over to where he was seated. After a pleasant conversation Jim said he remembered some cash he had put in his wallet to get groceries. For some unknown reason, he said to the man, “I have something I want to give you.” Jim handed the man $150. Not a huge amount, but it was what he had in his wallet. To Jim’s total surprise, this dear man and his wife burst into tears. Weeping. The man told Jim that through no fault of their own, they found themselves without a place to live. They were in a shelter and had been told a few hours earlier that day that they needed to pay for the next 6 nights if they were to continue to stay at the shelter. The cost -- $25 a night. The total amount needed -- $150. I was speechless as Jim shared this experience! Someone Jim didn’t even know, needed exactly what he had to share! (I promised Jim I wouldn’t tell anyone this story because he didn’t want anyone to know. But after much cajoling, he gave me permission to tell you because I believe it was one of life’s providential events that is applicable to our study today!)
In the time of Abraham and Sarah, many individuals who were travelers, and moved with herds of cattle and sheep to find grazing land, lived in tents. The tents were often pitched so that large center poles held the skins or cloth up. In the day, one could roll up the sides of the tent so a breeze would keep the inside cooler. However, historians also note that tents that were open offered a “welcoming” sign to weary travelers who might find themselves running short on water and food.
A tent with open sides shouted, “You are welcome here.” This was the message sent from the tents of Abraham. Back on the road to God’s purpose, with his tent planted where God guided them, Abraham and Sarah found themselves under the covering of God’s heavenly protection and as they walked within God’s will they opened themselves up -- both physically in their tents, and figuratively in their hearts, to welcome those individuals God sent their way. One day, Abraham saw three men approaching. He invited them home to dinner and God’s daughter Sarah served supper.
I want to share with you a beautiful thought penned by Matthew Fox which is the lesson for us today: “Hospitality is about a relationship – one cannot be hospitable without guests.” This is exactly what Abraham and Sarah found out in their lives when into their tent walked three guests. And one of the guests was the, “Lord of heaven and earth.” But I want to share with you the rest of Matthew Fox’s profound quotation: “God not only plays the host for us and becomes the banquet for us; God also has become guest for us. This is the deepest meaning of the incarnation, that God let go of hosting long enough to become guest as well.”
Can you believe it? The ruler of the universe, who has invited me to come to His royal banquet and partake of His food, is so kind and gracious, that down through history He came to Abraham and Sarah’s tent for dinner and He even came as a baby in a manger. What’s more, when invited, He’ll come into my heart to stay if I open it to Him. All He asks of us is to make our lives an open tent with the welcome sign hanging on the door. He won’t force Himself on us as an uninvited guest. But He’ll always come where He’s invited.
And if we will, like Abraham and Sarah, choose to live with the sides of our hearts rolled up and open, we may never know who God will send our way, even in a parking lot in Phoenix, Arizona.
“If my hands are fully occupied in holding on to something,
I can neither give nor receive.” - Dorothy Solle
“Yet if his Majesty, our sovereign lord,
Should of his own accord
Friendly himself invite,
And say ‘I’ll be your guest tomorrow night,’
How should we stir ourselves, call and command
All hands to work! ‘Let no man idle stand.’
‘Set me fine Spanish tables in the hall;
See they be fitted all;
Let there be room to eat
And order taken that there want no meat.
See every sconce and candlestick made bright,
That without tapers they may give a light.’
‘Look to the presence: are the carpets spread,
The dazie* o’er the head,
The cushions in the chairs,
And all the candles lighted on the stairs?
Perfume the chambers, and in any case
Let each man give attendance in his place!’
Thus, if a king were coming, would we do;
And ‘twere good reason too;
For ‘tis a duteous thing
To show all honour to an earthly king,
And after all our travail and our cost,
So he be pleased, to think no labour lost.
But at the coming of the King of Heaven
All’s set at six and seven;
We wallow in our sin,
Christ cannot find a chamber in the inn.
We entertain him always like a stranger,
And, as at first, still lodge him in the manger.”
*dazie this, canopy
Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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