Summary: This sermon looks at prayer
Conversations with God
Have you ever had unexpected guests? Deorick and Dennis Williams got included in a group text of two people they didn't know. The text read: “Lindsey and Mark Knox have given birth to a healthy baby boy, Carson Knox.” The couple was so busy texting friends and family about the new arrival that they inadvertently sent the text to the wrong phone. Regardless, Deorick and Dennis did the unthinkable: they jumped in their car and drove 40 miles from their home in Tallahassee, FL to the hospital in GA to celebrate the birth of a new child to perfect strangers. And just to add more excitement to the surprise visit, they stopped along the way to pick up some gifts for the new baby. Sound insane? The Knoxes posted to Facebook: “What a blessing these two guys were to our family. They were so sweet and kind to do this! You 2 are great guys and thank you for giving to someone you didn’t know!”
Have you ever had unexpected guests? Google “unannounced guests” and you find a slew of websites dedicated to the topic and a host of Miss Manners like suggestions. One woman blogged this question, “How do you react to unannounced visitors?” She then proceeded to tell the story of her sister in law who lives two hours away but stopped by unannounced because she was in the area. When she arrived home, she found her sister in law sitting on the front porch waiting for her. Her husband was out of town for the week and she and her kids were just recovering from a bad cold, so things were especially chaotic. Her house was a disaster. She had enough dinner for herself and her girls, but nothing to offer her sister in law. While the sister in law was there, this mom spent the entire time futilely trying to carry on a conversation while wrangling her toddler and infant.” Responses to her posted question included, “If someone can't bother to call me before they get to my house, I don't even answer the door.” Another responded, “That’s just rude!” They’re not alone. The idea of dropping by someone’s house unannounced is almost unthinkable these days, and what about if it was midnight? But not in Jesus’ day. Israel is on the same parallel as Louisiana and so you can imagine how hot it gets in summer. This forced travelers on foot to avoid the hottest part of the day and instead travel in the later afternoon and evening. So it was not unusual to have someone arrive at your house after dark and even at midnight.
Now a person would arrive with expectations. To understand this parable, we need to see there are three cultural values at work in this story which everyone listening to Jesus’ story in his day would have taken for granted. The first is hospitality which was mandatory in Jesus’ culture. The extremes people went to extend hospitality to others were legendary. One example was Abraham’s response to three strangers who come to his tent in the desert and he prepares a banquet for them. The other two values are honor and shame and putting the community first in all things. Hospitality is an issue of village honor because the interests of the community always transcend that of the individual. Thus, anyone who refuses to extend hospitality to a guest would immediately be shamed in the eyes of the village. And such news would spread like wild fire throughout the village. So when this unnounced guest arrives, he is expecting a meal and a place to sleep, sending this man to the door of his neighbor asking for bread.
There are several things we learn from this parable. First, God faithfully provides. There were two elements which determined the survival of the Hebrew people in the wilderness: water and bread. Thus, bread became a symbol of God’s faithful provision to his people. It is served at every meal in Jesus’ day because it is used as your utensil. To eat, a piece of bread is torn from a loaf and dipped into the common food bowls set on the table. This dipped piece of bread is called a sop, and cannot be reused since it would defile the remaining food in that bowl. Dorito’s has it right, no double dipping! Thus, every sop (mouthful) of food requires a new piece of bread torn from the loaf. Another part of this meal tradition is that a guest can never be offered a partial loaf of bread because that would be insulting. The host must, therefore, offer a complete loaf. Since Middle Eastern hospitality traditions require putting much more in front of the guest than he could possibly eat, multiple loaves of bread are needed to properly “set the table.”