SER # 25Wa
FIRST UMC – NEBRASKA CITY
SUNDAY JUNE 14TH 2020
TEXTS: GENESIS 18: 1 – 15; 21: 1 – 7
THEME: OFFERING HOSPITALITY
God is Good! All the time! And all the time! God is good!
Our Scripture today is Genesis 18: 1 – 15 “The LORD appeared to Abraham at the oaks of Mamre while he sat at the entrance of his tent in the day’s heat. He looked up and suddenly saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them, he ran from his tent entrance to greet them and bowed deeply. He said, Sirs, if you would be so kind, don’t just pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought so you may wash your feet and refresh yourselves under the tree. Let me offer you a little bread so you will feel stronger, and after that you may leave your servant and go your way—since you have visited your servant. They responded. Fine. Do just as you have said. So, Abraham hurried to Sarah at his tent and said, Hurry knead three Seahs of the finest flour and make some baked goods. Abraham ran to the cattle, took a healthy young calf, and gave it to a young servant, who prepared it quickly. Then Abraham took the butter milk, and the calf that had been prepared, put the food in front of them, and stood under the tree near them as they ate. They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, Right here in the tent.” Then one of the men said, “I will definitely return to you about this time next year. Then your wife Sarah will have a son!” Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were both very old (99 and 89 years respectively). Sarah was no longer menstruating. So, Sarah laughed to herself, thinking I’m no longer able to have children and my husband is old. The Lord said to Abraham, Why did Sarah laugh and say ‘Me give birth? At my age? Is anything too difficult for the LORD? When I return to you about this time next year, Sarah will have a son. Sarah lied and said, “I didn’t laugh” because she was frightened. But he said you laughed……..
Word of God written for the people of God – Thanks be to God.
The Lord’s Prayer:
Abraham by this time of this encounter he was 99 years old. He had gotten the call to leave his home country at the age of 75 years. So, they had been waiting for God to fulfill this promise of them having a son through Sarah. Abraham must have shared with Sarah this promise and both must have been wondering what happened? Did God forget his promise? I assume at certain times they may have given up and that why Sarah had asked Abraham to have a baby (Ishmael) with her servant.
But today our focus is on the aspect of offering hospitality, that Abraham was able to demonstrate to us and what that teaches us. I believe that we can learn a lesson or two of faith living from this story:
- We don’t have to know someone to offer them hospitality: It is interesting on how this whole thing unfolds. Abraham is resting outside the Tent when these three people show up. They shown up so quickly that they could not have been walking. It was almost like they came down from heaven. But Abraham did not ask them where they were coming from but felt that he needed to welcome them. God challenges us to do the same today to offer hospitality to the people that get in contact with us. This reminds me of the story of Jesus after resurrection. Jesus joined the two disciples going to the village of Emmaus from Jerusalem they did not know who Jesus was but when they got to near their village, they invited this stranger in their home to offer hospitality. This is how the writer of the Gospel of Luke puts it, “As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening, the day is almost over.’ So, he went in to stay with them.” (Luke 24: 28-29). In this case we know what happened when they broke break. The disciples discovered it was Jesus that they had invited in thinking he was a stranger. Again, this is important lesson for us to ask ourselves in what ways can we offer hospitality to the people in our community. I remember some time back in our church here in Nebraska city we committed for a couple of weeks to do community outreach. The theme was to ‘Do something small’ to the people we got in contact. People told testimonies of paying for a meal to the person behind in line at the drive through places, to paying part of glossary shopping in the store. We have to keep remembering the words of Jesus as he told the parable of separating the sheep and goats. In that parable as we read in Matthew 25:31ff. The words remind us that when we visit the sick, those hospital, those in jail, clothe the naked, give food to the hungry and provide shelter we are doing it to God himself. Offering hospitality as a Christians is one way of being a witness to the love of God in this world that sometimes seem to hate and segregate people.
- We offer our best: In our story today, I am touched by the choice of hospitality that Abraham gives these strangers. He does not welcome them to enjoy the left overs or the food that they would not eat themselves. He starts by telling Sarah to do some bakes from the best kind of flour that they possessed. He goes ahead and get the best young calf to be prepared for them. This takes us to the story of the two brothers Cain and Abel as they were giving a sacrifice to God. Cain just offered the ordinary while Abel offered the best that he had. “In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. And Abel also brought an offering – fat portion from some of the firstborns in his flock. The Lord looked in favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look in favor. So, Cain was very angry and his face was downcast.” (Genesis 4: 3 – 5). The Lord requires the best from each one of us. When you give your life to the Lord don’t give the leftovers. Think for a moment the time you give to your God in terms of prayer. Do you find yourself praying when you are tired, not having much time, when interruptions are still around? If you do that, it is offering your God the leftovers not your best. You give God the leftover of your day hours. Just a few minutes before we sleep, a quick one over the meal. If there is one thing, we learn from Abraham he gave the best. Curve some time out of your busy day and offer the Lord quality moment. Quality in not determined by the length but the uninterrupted focus. You have to pick your best location and best time for this. Some have a special corner at their house. Abraham never knew that he was welcoming the Angels.
- We might be welcoming God: The action of welcome that we do whether it is in our homes, our heart at our church building, we end up by receiving special blessing and fulfilment. Often without knowing we invite blessing in our homes in our lives even in our place of worship. What we did not read in our main scripture today was that the three visitors that Abraham had welcomed were sent by God to go and destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because they had become sinful nations. You might remember that in this town of Sodom that where Abraham’s nephew, Lot and his family lived. Abraham tried to negotiate with the three visitors to save Sodom and Gomorrah, but there were no enough faithful people (not even 10), the place was destroyed and Lot and his family were saved except the wife (If you wish to read go to Genesis 18 : 16ff). In the parable of separating Goats and Sheep that I mentioned earlier we learn that it was the acts of hospitality that God looks at in the end to decide who enter his kingdom. Not the number of years one has been a Christian but rather how you have impacted different aspect of life by your actions. Jesus was in some way reminding us we have to put our faith in real action dealing with real needs of the people. “When the son of Man comes in his glory, and all the Angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left…………For I was hungry and you gave something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…..The King will reply, Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters on mine you did to me. (Matthew 25:31-40). When the disciples got home to Emmaus village, invited a stranger in who did not seem informed on the current news of the day, he turned out to be Jesus himself. Abraham in welcoming the three strangers he found out that he had welcomed Angels who brought good news that it was time for the promised son to be born. Sarah was not too sure about that; she was already 89 years old. She laughed on hearing this message of her having a child (who could blame her, it had been 24 years since the promise was first made). But the scriptures remind us of the words that we can hold on at all times, in all situations, and all places “Is Anything too difficult for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14a). There is nothing too difficult for the Lord to handle, just take it to him in prayer.