Tag Archives: Abraham

Stepping Out of Our Comfort Zone

by Barbie Fischer

Abraham pic 5-26-16In our last edition, we began our series on hospitality and took a look at Abraham and Sarah welcoming three strangers in Genesis 18: 1-8 in the article Welcoming the Stranger. Hospitality such as this was a cultural obligation and as noted in the article, the Hebrew word actually means bringing in of strangers. As I read the story again, there is a word that struck me in verse two: the word “ran”. In verse two, it says that when Abraham saw the strangers he did not just welcome them in — he ran to welcome them.

This made me think of a firefighter running into a burning building to help someone in need. It also made me think of how often not only do we not run to help a stranger, we often pretend they don’t exist. Especially the homeless people I often see. How many of us pass them by without even looking at them? How often do we do that to people in need in our own congregations or communities?

In Matthew 10:46-52, a blind beggar was crying out to Jesus and the crowd told him to hush, much like our society tells us to ignore the homeless or those in need. Rather than telling the beggar to hush, society tells us we don’t have time, it is not safe. Yet these are our brothers and sisters. In Matthew 10, the author even names the beggar, Bartimaeus. He is a man, not something to be ignored. And Jesus does not ignore him. As Abraham ran to the strangers, Jesus calls for Baritmaeus and heals him.

Honestly, I can’t think of the last time I ran to a stranger, or even called to one. This past weekend, I had a woman cry out to me and ask for spare change. I honestly had no cash on me and so I looked her in the eye and said as much. As I walked away she said, “thank you for responding.” It struck me to my core. I wonder how many times she watches people walk past her, avoiding eye contact, trying to pretend she does not exists.

Abraham article pic 5-26-16It can slow us down to stop and acknowledge that a person is speaking to us, even more so if we try to be hospitable and offer assistance; yet as God’s children are we not called to love our brothers and sisters? Even if right now they are strangers to us?

This week I have been restocking my blessing bags that I keep in my car. These can contain any number of items. In mine I have a snack size bag of chips, soft granola bar, an apple, a small bar of soap, band aids, tooth paste, tooth brush, and a note of encouragement and address to a local shelter. In the winter I add socks and gloves. I keep a few in my car, so when I see someone asking for money I can hand them a bag. When I lived in Washington, DC, I often tried to keep extra granola bars and trail mix in my purse for the same reason. Perhaps, this can be something your congregation can do together. Or if you do not see homeless people on a regular occasion, maybe your congregation can do a food drive for a local food bank and then volunteer at the food bank, and get to know those in your area who are in need. Or begin collecting school supplies for local kids and organize a back pack stuffing day at the end of the summer and a celebration event where the back packs can be handed out.

Hospitality can be uncomfortable. It stretches us out of our comfort zone. Yet, the word of God says, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline,” 2 Timothy 1:7. May the spirit of power, love and discipline manifest in us all as we continue to go to the margins and beyond.

Welcoming the Stranger

By Barbie Fischer

As we begin this journey of diving into the subject of hospitality, it seems fitting to start at the beginning. The origin of the word hospitality can be traced back to the Hebrew/Aramaic word הכנסת אורחים (hachnasat orchim) which literally translates to bringing in of strangers. Something that nowadays may give many of us pause, if asked to bring a complete stranger into our home. Yet, this was common practice in the days of Abraham and Sarah. We see the first record of hospitality in the Bible as Abraham and Sarah welcome three visitors.

The story is recorded in Genesis 18: 1-8, and states:

Abraham“Now the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth, and said, “My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, please do not pass Your servant by. Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; and I will bring a piece of bread, that you may refresh yourselves; after that you may go on, since you have visited your servant.” And they said, “So do, as you have said.” So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Quickly, prepare three measures of fine flour, knead it and make bread cakes.” Abraham also ran to the herd, and took a tender and choice calf and gave it to the servant, and he hurried to prepare it. He took curds and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and placed it before them; and he was standing by them under the tree as they ate.”

To understand this story one must look at the cultural context. During this period people were seminomadic and there were no hotels or inns, no hospitality industry. It was deemed a social obligation of people in cities and encampments to care for travelers. Abraham and Sarah would have been accustomed to welcoming strangers.

It reminds me of our Mennonite Culture, as we are known for our homestays, and also of my time in Africa, I was never without a place to sleep. Yet, this is not common in our broader culture here in the states and nowadays even as Mennonites we might pause welcoming someone who happens upon our front door with no knowledge of who they are or where they came from. There was a time I was traveling and needed a place to stay here in the states. I mentioned to my friend, Bahati, from the Congo, I was looking for a place. He looked at me and said, “If we were in Africa, I would say come and stay with my wife and I, but we are in America, so I must say, let me check with my wife.” A sign of a respectful husband, but also of our culture, as perhaps his wife would not want a guest. Inviting a guest into the home is not a given in our culture. Yet, for Abraham and Sarah, it would be unthinkable to allow a person in need to pass by without offering them hospitality.

It makes one wonder, what is it about Abraham and Sarah that made them so open to being hospitable? Was it their upbringing and culture? Or something deeper? And what keeps us from being hospitable at times? Is it our upbringing and culture? How can we show hospitality like Abraham and Sarah in this day and age?

Stay tuned for more on Abraham and Sarah with the three visitors, in the next Intersectings edition.