As individual Christians and churches we can learn a lot about the welcome we give people from the example set by Abraham when he welcomed three strangers to his tent. You can read about Abraham’s actions in Genesis 18, verses 1-8 but here I want to just highlight some of the striking details and share some thoughts on their significance for us.
Abraham sits at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day and he looks up and is startled to see three men standing there.
And suddenly out of habit the whole Jewish tradition of hospitality kicks in and even though Abraham was ‘already very old’ he hurried from the entrance to meet them and bowed low to the ground.
I remember visiting a church in Bermondsey (the majority of the congregation were Ghanaian or Zimbabwean.) I was there for the first time that day and I was surprised when the minister asked the congregation if there were any visitors there and would they stand and introduce themselves!
That’s the normal tradition in many churches and a sure sign of hospitality but as a leader, I am not sure I would ever have the nerve to ask newcomers to do that myself (too British and reserved perhaps?) but actually it felt quite special to me and there was no doubt who the new people were and were especially warmly welcomed after the service too.
- Our welcome when people come to our churches needs to be appropriate and practical – simple things like making sure families with children know about the facilities available and what provision is available for them can make all the difference; Perhaps showing them the rooms where their children will be, and yes, even asking people to introduce themselves during the service might be appropriate. Such things as making an effort to overcome barriers where English is not the first language can help too.
Then Abraham springs into action and offers more hospitality – he urges the visitors to stay – offers foot washing and rest and ‘ a little water….and something to eat’, which turns out to be bread made from the finest flower, a choice tender calf and curds and milk!
- That says something about how we go out of our way to be generous when welcoming people. Do we offer the best we can? Have you done a quality check on your tea, coffee or biscuits lately? Are cups and saucers the easiest thing to handle when you have young children?
Amazingly Abraham and Sarah demonstrated their hospitality even before they knew who their visitors were which says so much to us about how we too should express God’s unconditional hospitality as we welcome others into our churches, our homes and our lives.
Happy New Year
Deacon Richard Beckett