Sunday, June 9, 2013

Open Doors, Open Lives

(A Communion meditation based on Genesis 18:1-14 for Sunday, June 9, 2013)

So far as Abraham could tell, they were just three men who happened by, but he still fell all over himself being hospitable to them. He asked them in, encouraged them to put their feet up, and, along with Sarah, fed them a great meal. He welcomed them into his home, to his table, and into his life. As a result, Abraham was included in a conversation that made quite a difference in his life for in that conversation Abraham was told that at that same time the next year Sarah would give birth to a son. After much waiting and hoping, there would be a son of Sarah and Abraham; his name would be Isaac. So Abraham gave to his guests but he also received from them.

And in some mysterious way, the Lord God was present in the meal outside Abraham and Sarah’s tent.

Many years later there lived in the town of Jericho another “son of Abraham” whose name was Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was a reject, a small man made even smaller in the eyes of his neighbors by his collusion with the hated Romans in their taxation system. He didn’t know who Jesus was but he wanted to find out and so he ran ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree—for the Lord he wanted to see. When Jesus walked by he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” Then, we are told, “he hurried down and was happy to welcome him” (Luke 19:5-6). The good religious folks fussed because Jesus was going to eat with a sinner but that sinner started promising to make right the wrong he had done and to give to people in need. And Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house!” (Luke 19:9).

And in some mysterious way, the Lord God was present at that meal at Zacchaeus’s house.

A few years later, a Christian leader encouraged his readers, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2). He most likely had the story of Abraham’s visitors in mind, but his point is well made, especially when we understand that the word “angel” means “messenger”; who knows what the Lord might have to say to us through people that come to us and that we receive, even if we don’t know who they are or why they are there.

Abraham didn’t know that his visitors represented the Lord—but they did. Zacchaeus didn’t know that he was going to host the Savior—but he was. Neither knew that their lives were about to change drastically—but they were.

Now, hundreds of years later, here we are about to gather around the Table. And in some mysterious way, the Lord God is present at this meal. The Lord may just have something life-changing to say to us. Are we listening? The Lord may just want to bring salvation—freedom from what narrows and lessens us, from what causes us to lose ourselves, and from what causes us to think and act destructively toward other people—to our house. Are we willing—and even anxious—to receive it?

There are Christian traditions in which the sanctuary contains more than one altar. In those churches, there is one High Altar; it is the altar on which the Lord’s Supper is served. It makes sense for that altar to be called the “high” one, given that Jesus is Lord and that his sacrifice is central to our faith.

But if only look “high” for the Lord, we will miss him.

Someone once asked a rabbi why so few people see the Lord to which the rabbi replied, “Because they don’t look low enough.”

Or, as the Lord put it, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Matthew 25:35). When do we welcome and minister to Jesus in those ways? “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).

Somehow, in this meal, the Lord is present.

Somehow, in the stranger, the hungry one, the impoverished one, the sick one, and the imprisoned one, the Lord is present.

The question is whether we will open the door and open our lives and let them in …

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