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Hosting the Holy (wholly extraordinary)

Pentecost 12, Common Lectionary Year B

Genesis 18:1-15

©2018 Rev. Dr. Elisabeth R. Jones

I am so very grateful for the work of my Doctoral programme,
and the chance to study with both Tom Long and Richard Ward,
who showed us students how holy humour
inflects so much of our Biblical library,
and to good effect.
Seated in whatever heatwave,
or social upheaval,
or political or religious funk
that besets the people of God,
in Biblical times and in our own,
humour can both lighten and deepen
our embrace of “life anyway.”
Humour can cut through layers of correctness
to get at deep truth,
and that is certainly clear here,
as an ageing couple look to an uncertain future, and unfulfilled promises
with a blend of hopefulness and cynicism,
faith and doubt, despair and courage,
typical of all human individuals and societies.
We laugh at them, and in so doing at ourselves….
at the times we’ve rushed, doddering, grasping at straws,
or the times when we too hide behind
the tent flap and cynically laugh possibility away.

Let me not mince words;
some of us see the world as
hopeless and helpless
as Sarah saw her childless future.
Some of us like Abraham, want to ask God
just when the promised judgment of falsehood,
the promised restoration of justice,
the promised healing of an overheated world,
the promised equity of opportunity for all the earth’s people
will actually happen, because 99 years is a damnedly long time already!

But then again, haven’t we also,
fragile, and tired, fearful and spent,
suddenly found ourselves encountering angels among us?
Haven’t we also hosted the holy, and been changed?

One September morning in 2015,
we all saw a stranger, a toddler, on a beach, (Aylan Kurdi)
and we as a community of faith
got up from the shade of our oak tree,
we rushed to find funds, filled out forms,
we corralled beds, bikes, a house,
and we waited,
and waited for the calf to roast
and the bread to bake,
in order to welcome and shelter and feed a family of strangers, (how can we call them that now?),
and in so doing, how we have been changed
by this miracle of holy hosting.

Haven’t we also encountered angels among us, countless, angels, hosted holiness,
each time we put out 120 chairs and plates,
and cups and popcorn once a month for F4?
We thought this was ours to host and share,
but we have been fed so much more
– a glimpse of the banquet of God’s blessing of the nations,
where Persian and Syrian, Ukrainian and Quebecois de souche share Chinese Stir Fry and Caribbean chicken
and the hope and promise of a
healed and healing world.

It’s one of the reasons why we dare courageous hospitality
by refurbishing our kitchen, so that with Sarah’s cakes and bread,
Abraham’s roasts and curds,
we too can host the holy, time and again…
we dare to dream that we too can feed angels,
and feed thousands – just like Jesus!
For at a holy feeding the world is changed.

Who among us has not found, when we have offered a Healing Pathway treatment,
made chicken soup for the freezer,
visited with a Senior, or someone who is sick,
offered a shawl or a prayer, or a ride,
that we have hosted holiness,
and have been blessed more than we have given?
Who among us has not gone out tired, worn and weary
to respond to a need, a stranger, or a friend,
only to come home renewed and refreshed?
Shouldn’t we also laugh, incredulously, that blessing
should come precisely where we expected only cost?

I’d like to leave this with you as an invitation
to ponder over your lunch today,
and in the days ahead…
how many times have you,
like Abraham and Sarah,
been blessed beyond belief,
by a simple act of hospitality, welcome, or generosity?
How many times have you hosted an earthly event
and found yourself hosting holiness and hope?
Maybe it was holding a grandchild in your arms?
Fostering a sickly dog?
Joining a spring time park clean-up crew?
Riding for cancer, or for Refuge (shameless plug)
Volunteering at Nova, or WAIAH,
smiling at the guy who bags your groceries?
thanking the customs agent?
How many times has this oh so holy story been played out in your own living?

Don’t you think we can encourage one another with renewed hope in God’s promises
if we too were to share our funny holy stories?

Facebook users can comment on the post that will go up…. right about now….
Or, you can email me your encounters with angels….
Or you can tell a friend….

Host the holy, and expect miracles.
I know I have learned to do just that.

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