Summary: Abraham’s encounter with three strangers can teach us much about hospitality as a church.
A mother invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to her six-year-old daughter and said, "Would you like to say the blessing?" "I wouldn’t know what to say," the girl replied. "Just say what you hear Mommy say," the mother answered. The little girl bowed her head and with sincerity in her voice said, "Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?"
Genesis chapter 18 introduces us to a familiar story, that of God’s Judgment on Sodom and Gomorra, but there is quite a bit to learn before we get there. At a time when our fellowship is growing it can only be God’s timing that brings us to this passage tonight to look at and hopefully learn from the Hospitality of Abraham.
Hebrews 13:2 tells us "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it." Every Bible scholar faithful to the text sees this as a direct link back to Genesis 18. < Read Gen. 18:1-8 >
The eastern cultures still value hospitality as a primary virtue; and Abraham opened his home and set his table for three complete strangers because that was the right thing to do. I think, from Abraham’s actions though, we can learn what we at Fame Church need to do when visitors come to church.
Looking at this text, I see Abraham doing SIX things that we can do to show hospitality in church.
1. ABRAHAM MADE HIS GUESTS FEEL WELCOME. VV 2-3
Hospitality involves far more than a hello and a handshake, but it certainly does start there. Abraham set his guests above himself when he "Bowed himself to the earth" and urged them to remain. When he greeted his visitors, he made himself their servant. The very thing that Jesus wanted his followers to become is a servant to all others.
In making our guests here at Fame welcome, it takes more than simply welcoming them into the building and walking away, but extends to taking the servants attitude. To greet them, and to invite them in. To show them around and instructing them where the classrooms are for themselves or for their kids.
Not only did Abraham make his guests feel welcome...
2. HE REFRESHED THEM by washing their feet.
When Jesus washed his disciples’ feet John marked this as the full display of his love (John 13:1)! And he commanded the same of us. Now I know that some churches do this as a third ordinance together with Communion and Baptism; without getting into the discussion - I’m not against such a practice, but I’m not for it either; as long as the practice remains within the bounds of the church. I happen to believe when Jesus commanded us to wash one another’s feet, he had more in mind than basins and towels. He was concerned with servant hood and humility.
In our society if you asked church visitors to remove their shoes they would remove them without taking them off.... They’d remove them from the floor, and the foyer and the sidewalk, and they’d never bring them back!
I say that because in that country washing the feet was exceedingly refreshing. Shoes were only sandals, and your feet got dirty and hot, and to wash someone’s feet was to offer them a soothing opportunity to heal.
When people come into Fame are we offering them an opportunity to heal? One way to provide that is to ensure that the environment here is receptive, and inviting. Easy to get in, easy to get out.
3. The third thing Abraham did is, HE OFFERED THEM REST! V 4B
Abraham asked them to rest themselves under the tree. When visitor’s come into Fame, chances are good that, initially at least, they’ve come to be at rest from the battle front of the world. One reason people enter a church building is because they believe it is a sanctuary from the outside world. Do we not call this very room a sanctuary? That it is.
Life is hard, and when visitors come through those doors, it could be for any number of reasons, but at root all of those reasons will find comfort in knowing that there is rest here. Rest from the battles of the world. Freedom from office politics. Freedom from angry neighbors. Rest from temptation. Rest from the battlefields. Whatever the problem, we need to be sensitive to the needs of those who come through these doors, that we offer them rest and security.
Connected but distinct from that thought is number four...
4. HE GAVE THEM THE BEST SEAT. V4B.