Loving Like Family

This morning I was reminded that Hurricane Irene hit the Outer Banks with a vengeance eleven years ago this week. I was immediately transported back in time. My mother lived in a waterfront condo 30 minutes away in Manteo and her building’s elevator system was wiped out, so she came to live with us until it was repaired. I stepped into the role of “disaster relief coordinator” for my church and organized teams to go and help people muck out from the flood waters. Two teams from my home conference and church came from Georgia and we deployed them to a small church in Stumpy Point and to local homes to help with clean up and repair. It was a time of great exhaustion but also great joy, seeing my new church in Kitty Hawk come together in such a beautiful way.

In my own home, we suffered $25,000. worth of damage. A chimney blew apart, bringing rainwater into two rooms for days, and a large dock was dismantled in the raging storm. We also lost two cars. A few days after the hurricane subsided, a neighbor from down our canal rang our doorbell to say that part of our dock had landed intact on his boat lift, and would we please come and get it off. I immediately called my chain saw crew from church and gave them the address.

Hebrews 13 was part of last week’s lectionary assignment, and it fits perfectly with this memory today. I was privileged to see my church love each other like family. I was privileged to watch people open their homes to others. I was privileged to see church members donate supplies and food to the needy, never counting the cost. I was privileged to learn once again that the Lord is our helper, and we need not be afraid.

Hebrews 13 (Common English Bible)

13 Keep loving each other like family. 2 Don’t neglect to open up your homes to guests, because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it. 3 Remember prisoners as if you were in prison with them, and people who are mistreated as if you were in their place. 4 Marriage must be honored in every respect, with no cheating on the relationship, because God will judge the sexually immoral person and the person who commits adultery. 5 Your way of life should be free from the love of money, and you should be content with what you have. After all, he has said, I will never leave you or abandon you. 6 This is why we can confidently say,

The Lord is my helper,
and I won’t be afraid.
What can people do to me?

Have you ever been in a time of great distress and saw the Lord rush to your aid? Can you tell that story to someone who needs a reminder today? We need not be afraid with the Lord at our side.

7 Remember your leaders who spoke God’s word to you. Imitate their faith as you consider the way their lives turned out. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever!

Your life circumstances will change with the prevailing winds. Storms will come and go. People will come and go. But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Thanks be to God!

Seating for Two

Sharing

There is a town in central Florida called Celebration that has a charming, old-fashioned downtown area. The businesses that line the streets often have dog water bowls and little baskets filled with dog treats to entice you to stop and look in their windows. You can imagine my dog Georgia’s incredible joy when we discovered this! The downside for the other dogs is that her stop at the bike rental water bowl completely depleted their offering.

Now mind you, my girl is no angel, but the kindness these folks show the local dogs made me think about the scripture about “entertaining angels” in the book of Hebrews:

Hebrews 13 New International Version (NIV)

13 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

Providing hospitality is a common theme in the Bible. Think about travel in those days; inns were few and far between, or completely absent all together. Travelers could only get by with a little help from unknown friends, so providing shelter and a meal was commonplace.

Remember the story of Abraham and Sarah from Genesis 18? Three strangers came along as Abraham was sitting outside his tent. He jumped up and offered them water, bread, and the shade of his tree:

Genesis 18 Common English Bible (CEB)

18 The Lord appeared to Abraham at the oaks of Mamre while he sat at the entrance of his tent in the day’s heat. 2 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. 3 He said, “Sirs, if you would be so kind, don’t just pass by your servant. 4 Let a little water be brought so you may wash your feet and refresh yourselves under the tree. 5 Let me offer you a little bread so you will feel stronger, and after that you may leave your servant and go on your way—since you have visited your servant.”

They responded, “Fine. Do just as you have said.”

Abraham offered the standard of care: water for foot washing and a little bread. But look what actually happens:

6 So Abraham hurried to Sarah at his tent and said, “Hurry! Knead three seahs of the finest flour and make some baked goods!” 7 Abraham ran to the cattle, took a healthy young calf, and gave it to a young servant, who prepared it quickly. 8 Then Abraham took 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.

It was a five-star meal. Course after course of breads, meat, butter, milk … he opened up a smorgasbord of hospitality for these three men. And mind you, while we’re in on the fact that it was the Lord whom he entertained (read vs. 1 again), Abraham wasn’t. He was simply extending gracious hospitality because he had it to give …. thereby, entertaining angels.

How would you respond differently if you suspected that the hungry, dirty people needing your hospitality were the Lord and his angels? Would you lavish your resources on them, or offer water and a little bread? Would you close the door in their faces?

Jesus was very clear when he said that whenever you have offered the cup of cold water to the “least of these,” you have entertained him. So keep on showing hospitality to strangers. Keep on feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the unclothed, and most of all, keep on loving one another as your brothers and sisters.

Sharing by Michelle Robertson