Be not forgetful to entertain
strangers: for thereby
some have entertained angels unawares (Heb 13:2, AV)
talk to strangers” -
Any parent knows the need on occasion
to give that warning to young children
still learning about the world and its dangers.
It is a depressing
but maybe necessary
commentary on contemporary society.
that parental caution –
however necessary in our infancy -
can sometimes stay with us all our lives –
and that can mean that we end up as
fearful, insular and heartless adults.
If so, we contribute to a sad society
witnesses to a shooting
will not come forward for fear of involvement
our government seems to make asylum policy
on the basis of fear of strangers
rather than compassion for the needy
where more and more interpersonal relationships
are conducted on what this weekend we might call
the “stun gun” model –
you keep you distance or you will regret it.
All so different from the Biblical injunction in Heb 13:1-2,
to love each other as brothers & sisters
and to offer hospitality to strangers.
innkeepers are there in the NT?
I think there are only 2 -
Which one are you like??
like the innkeeper of Bethlehem –
keeping the stranger at arm’s length in the outhouse?
the innkeeper on the Jericho Road –
welcoming the stranger and binding up his wounds?
At one point during the cold war Nikita Khruschev
made a particularly violent speech
attacking Day Hammarskold and the UN.
The following day it happened he was holding
a fine diplomatic reception.
Hammarskold was invited –
indeed Khrushchev greeted him effusively at the door.
Why, someone asked, did you do that –
when only yesterday you were attacking him so violently?
We have a saying, said Kruschev –
“When an enemy is inside your home,
sharing your bread and salt,
you should always treat him with the utmost hospitality.
But as soon as he steps outside your door,
it is OK to slit his throat.”
Be warned if you are going on holiday to the Caucasus!
is not how Scripture understands hospitality –
it not just about limited rules of protocol – it is a way of life.
· Communist or Capitalist,
· Jew or Samaritan,
· straight or gay,
· Muslim or Christian,
· rich or poor,
· like us or unlike us –
does not stop at the doorway or the frontier post
or at the end of my creed or lifestyle.
talks about the need
to move from hostility to hospitality.
Hospitality, he says,
“means primarily the creation of a free space
where the stranger can enter
and become a friend instead of an enemy.
Hospitality is not to change people,
but to offer them space where change can take place
.....It is not a method of making our God and our way
into the criteria of happiness,
but the opening of an opportunity to others
to find their God and their way.”
True hospitality, he says, gives people a place
within which they are
“free to sing their own songs,
speak their own languages,
dance their own dances;
free also to leave and follow their own vocations.
Hospitality is not a subtle invitation
to adopt the life style of the host,
but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his (or her) own.”
Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life by Henri Nouwen pp 71-2
what the author of Hebrews calls us to do.
And, he says, If you do that –
you never know, you may just find that
the stranger you invited into your life
turns out to be an angel in disguise!
Do we dare welcome the stranger? It is not always that easy.
Wendy Ross Barker describes meeting
an unknown figure on a misty, foggy road:
“You come into view, indistinctly as yet….
Through the mist I see your outstretched arm.
What are you holding?
I feel uneasy, fearful of your intentions….
Is that a weapon in your hand?
You are a threat, a danger,
unknown, untrusted, unwanted….
Your approach unsettles me.
Come no nearer or I’ll….
You do not stop…
and something holds me there.
Now you have come more clearly into sight,
arm still outstretched
and holding – not a weapon – but a gift!
Friend, you break through the barrier of my fear,
changing my perspective by the courage of your love”
© Wendy Ross Barker – from “Entertaining Angels”, Duncan, Canterbury Press 2005 p31
Sometimes welcoming strangers is the receiving of God’s gift.
When the author of Hebrews wrote
about entertaining angels unawares,
he was almost certainly thinking of the old story from Genesis –
how Abraham and Sarah entertained three strangers in their tent –
only to discover that they were angels-
and the angels promised Sarah that should would bear a child.
Angels can bring rich life-giving gifts.
not have wings and harps –
indeed perhaps never so in our experience –
more likely they just look like ordinary strangers –
but an angel is a messenger from God –
and if we attend, who knows which ordinary person
may not show us something new of God & his ways?
welcoming strangers (like all acts of love and acceptance)
does involve risk and vulnerability.
You have only to read of shootings in our streets and
or see again those pictures of Diana with the landmine victims
to know that the hand coming out of the mist
does sometimes contain a weapon.
It is said that within every human soul there is an angel and a serpent
Certainly we are all made in the image of God and all tainted with sin.
When the stranger approaches, the question for us as Christians is this:
Can we so
provide that loving open unthreatening space
that allows the angel within our guest to unfold his wings and fly?
both visitor and host need to invite the Spirit
to bind them together in the moment of sharing….
seeing two tee shirts for sale in a shop in Limerick.
At first they looked very strange.
The first one read:
WE ARE AN
JUST ONE W
CAN FLY ON
The second one read:
ING AND WE
LY BY EMBRA
Then I realized:
to make sense of them,
you needed to wear one whilst you friend wore the other –
then you needed to put your arms round each others shoulders
so that you could read across the two Tee Shirts as one –
Then it all made sense -
WE ARE AN
CAN FLY ON
ING AND WE
LY BY EMBRA
“We are angels with
just one wing
and we can fly only by embracing each other”
Luciano de Crescento
welcome Tamara –
who hasn’t yet learnt to walk let along fly –
but she is our very special guest,
and we pray that in her home with Gareth and Everlyn
and here amongst God’s people,
she may find that true loving hospitality,
in which she may grow and her God-given gifts
may blossom and she may indeed be a very angel in our midst.
St Tamara was Queen of Georgia in the 12th
a Saint of the Russian Orthodox Church and a holy woman –
known & revered as the parent of orphans
and protector of widows –
that through her baptism this day,
our Tamara may be so blessed by the Holy Spirit that she may
· grow to walk in God’s ways
· follow in the footsteps of the Saints
· and in her turn offer warmth and hospitality to all in need.
A final true story.
A man tells how one day he was standing in a Square in
There he was approached by two women he had never met before –
politely they asked him the way to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
They turned out to be a 15 year old Iranian girl and her mother –
They were asylum seekers and had spent the whole day
trudging from office to office in Cardiff
being given the brush off at every turn.
The man manages to get them to a friendly solicitor,
and give them some real help.
Then they turn to him and say -
“We are devout Moslems,
and after walking miles and miles and getting no help,
we prayed to God he would send us an angel –
& he did – he sent you!”
Retold from Aled Edwards in “Entertaining Angels”, Duncan, Canterbury Press 2005 p4
You know, you really never do know when God will send an angel –
Or indeed when that angel might just be you!!
ORDER OF SERVICE
10.30 a.m. Service of Holy Communion
led by Rev Andrew Sails
Hymn 74 “At the name of Jesus”
Hymn: 478 “O Word of God incarnate”
Sermon “The Hammer of the Lord”
Hymn “Your word is like a guiding lamp”
Richard Firth (Worship Live No 22)]
Prayers and Lord’s Prayer
Minister: The peace of the Lord be with you
People: And also with you
[Members of Young Church enter]
Hymn NHWS 33 “Bread is blessed and broken”
[John Bell & Graham Maule Iona Communit]
Holy Communion [The congregation remains standing.]
Minister: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Minister: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them to the Lord.
Minister: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right to give our thanks and praise.
of all glory, we give you thanks and praise
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.
By your living Word you made us all.
Though we rejected your love,
you did not give up on us.
You spoke to us through the prophets,
and prepared the way for our salvation.
Finally you sent your only Son Jesus,
Lord of eternity, born of Mary.
And in Jesus your promises came true.
And so with all your people, on earth and in heaven.
we proclaim the glory of your name:
People (sing): Holy, holy, holy is the Lord,
holy is the Lord God almighty!
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord,
holy is the Lord God almighty!
Who was, and is, and is to come!
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord!
Minister: Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night in
which he was betrayed,
took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying,
'Take this and eat it. This is my body given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.'
In the same way, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying,
'Drink from it all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant,
poured out for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in remembrance of me.’
has died. Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.
[The congregation sits]
People (sing): Spirit of the living God,
Move among us now,
Make us one in heart and mind
Through our bread and wine:
Taking, breaking, Blessing, sharing,
Spirit of the Living God
Bless our bread and wine.
[Tune HAP 295]
Minister: The true bread of heaven
gives life to the world.
Come, all who are hungry, come and eat.
Come, all who are thirsty, come and drink.
Distribution of Bread and Wine
[all who seek to love the Lord Jesus are invited to share in bread and wine -
please come forward when the steward beckons your row]
praise you God,
for the bread of heaven
and the cup of salvation
which you have given for the life of the world.
With this food for our journey
bring us with your saints
to the feast of your glory. Amen.
Hymn 66 (KHB 447) “Great is thy faithfulness”
1. 오 신실하신 주 내 아버지여
늘 함께 계시니 두렴 없네
그 사랑 변찮고 날지키시며
어제나 오늘이 한결같네
2. 봄철과 또 여름 가을과 겨울
해와 달 별들도 다 주의 것
만물이 하나로 드러낸 증거
신실한 주사랑 나타내네
3. 내죄를 사하여 안위하시고
주 친히 오셔서 인도하네
오늘의 힘되고 내일의 소망
주만이 만복을 내리시네
후) 오 신실하신 주 오 신실하신 주
날마다 자비를 베푸시며
일용할 모든 것 내려주시니
오 신실 하신 주 나의 구주
아 – 멘