Our first reading is from Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7. It is a most complex text, and scholars insist that it has been heavily edited, going through many revisions before it became the version we have before us.
There are four themes that jump out at us today that connect the text to our current climate. The first theme is hospitality. The three strangers are offered the best Abraham had to offer. The entire household was set in motion. Abraham extended the invitation – “let a little water be brought, … wash your feet… and rest yourselves… let me bring a little bread”. One member of the household would have brought the water to drink. Another would have brought rugs and cushions for the guests to sit. Others would have brought basins and pitchers of water for foot washing. Sarah was instructed to bake with only the finest flour. Abraham selected a calf that others would have prepared. Someone served the guests curd and mild. The entire household was mobilized to provide hospitality to these three strangers. Please note that no one said, “stranger danger” or that they had a strange accent or a different skin color, or were “not from around here”, were from different social status. These differences were instead on an opportunity to extend hospitality, an opportunity for conversation.
Hospitality sets the entire household in motion. We know from previous chapters that Abraham’s Household was diverse. There were servants and slaves. There were shepherds and herdsmen. There was Hagar, an Egyptian, and her son, Ishmael, fathered by Abraham. Though diverse they were all included. In fact, the males were all circumcised as a mark of faithfulness to the God of Abraham. Just as the rainbow following the flood in Noah’s day was God’s promise to be their God, so was the circumcision of the promise of Abraham’s household to be the people of God.
The third theme is conversation/partnership. The three strangers, while enjoying the hospitality of the household, engaged Abraham in conversation, “…your wife Sarah shall have a son…”. Now Sarah was well past the childbearing age, and she quietly laughed. In fact, in Chapter 17 when God told Abraham the same thing, he fell to the ground in laughter. In the conversation, God promised to partner with Sarah. In due time she gave birth to Issac, a son. Issac was the son of promise. Household hospitality enabled conversation that lead to a partnership with Sarah, and with Abraham, too.
Hospitality, Household, Conversation/Partnership, and finally, Promise. Circumcised on the eighth day, Issac would guide the Abrahamic household into the next generation. On the eighth day, Issac became the Son of Promise. Remember, Jesus rose on the eighth day. Remember, we are baptized at a font that has eight sides. The eighth day is always the day of new beginnings.
Hospitality, Household, Conversation/Partnership, and Promise. These themes are an invitation to us in our own day to engage. Strangers are an invitation to ministry. The ministry of hospitality is to engage all the household of God. As we engage in hospitality we are partnering with God. As we partner with God we move into the future with the assurance, the confidence, that God is with us.
By God’s grace, we are part of the Abrahamic household. By God’s grace, we are invited to exercise the ministry of hospitality. By God’s grace, we are invited to partner with God, like Sarah and Abraham. By God’s grace, we are promised a future as the people of God.