Sermon for August 28, 2022  Twelfth after Pentecost          “Faith’s ladder of success”

The Hebrew’s teaching to love and care for one another and to show hospitality, echo’s an ages old truth that we just never know who we entertain when we extend hospitality. There is an ancient story about a couple who did not have much and when strangers happened by their tent they shared what little they had. As it turns out these strangers were messengers of God and indicated that Abraham and Sarah would have a child. Remember, Sarah laughed, and so would we if we were in our 80’s. Little did they know that they would be the mother and father of three major world religions.

The Hebrew text reminds us to offer hospitality to strangers, for by doing some have entertained angels without even knowing. How often have we helped at food bank, soup kitchen, breakfast program or shelter and arrived home knowing in our heart and soul that we received so much more that we gave?

The teaching goes on to encourage us who are already followers of Jesus to keep telling the stories, to share and show the value of faith to our children. To not lose heart when our efforts fall are un-listening ears and hearts, our role to is be persistent. Leave to opening of ears and hearts to God.

The Gospel teaching continues on with trying to understand the meaning of Sabbath, in Jesus day and in ours. Last week we heard the biblical challenges to Sabbath. From Genesis; on the seventh day God rested and called the day holy, in Exodus; you shall do nothing on the Sabbath and in Deuteronomy; you shall honour the Sabbath but not cease from what is essential and from extending hospitality. For centuries the leading Rabbi’s wanted strict adherence to the law as it gave them leverage over the people. The Rabbis were as ruthless with taxing as were the Romans. The only people who gained on this Holy Day were the Romans and the Rabbis and Jesus was convinced that was not what God intended.

And we hear today that Jesus healed on the Sabbath, further infuriating the ones who wanted God in a box. Jesus goes on to teach by saying when you arrive at a party do not think too highly of yourself lest you made the fool of in public. And when you have a party do not just invite those who can repay, rather invite all. Yes all, the poor, the lame, the homeless and yes even the one who dares do a healing on the Sabbath.

For today we are reminded to love and care for one another and to extend hospitality extravagantly. So when we say ‘all are welcome’ that means everyone; the found and the seeking, the young and the aged, the hockey player and figure skater, the well dressed and those in the best they have. Let me leave you with a story:

There’s an ancient story about a monastery where all the monks were old, tired and waiting to die. They’d lost their fire for the Lord and had long since ceased to really care about their fellow brothers. Although they shared the same living space, prayed together, ate together, and worked together, each monk lived in his own world with heart and mind turned inward. 2 No one came to the monastery. There were no visitors, and no new brothers. The buildings were sadly in need of repair, but the monks didn’t care. They felt it wasn’t long until there’d be no monastery at all. Everything would return to dust. Then one day, a holy man visited them. He was a monk himself. For a time he lived with the old brothers, prayed with them talked with them, worked, ate, and slept with them. He was wise and loving. The brothers turned their hearts and minds outward and listened to him. When the time came for him to leave, this holy man stood before the brothers who were bidding him farewell and wished them God’s peace. Some of the monks shook their heads sadly; there’s nothing here for us now that you’re going, they thought. But the visitor’s last words to them were: “Christ dwells in your midst.” Then he walked away. Well, the brothers were quite astonished. They looked at one another with surprise. Which one of them could be the Christ? Surely not Brother William, who never arrived at the chapel on time and never did his work either, for that matter; surely not Brother Mark, who annoyingly slurped his soup; surely not the Abbot, who was always gruff with everyone. Christ wouldn’t be late for chapel, or neglect his work, or slurp his soup, or be gruff! 3 Yet their visitor was a holy and reliable man who had spoken the truth to them the whole time he was in their company. This too must be true. One among them must be Christ! So each of the monks began to treat the other as if he were Christ, for they didn’t know who it was. They looked for ways to serve one another and were kind to one another and shared with one another. Each did his work as a gift to the Christ who was among them. Each honored his fellow monk by listening with full attention and respect. They began to overlook little things that had annoyed them about one another and began instead to see the good that was in every person. Life began to flow back into the dying community. A vitality and joy was reborn that had been lost for many years. The people of the town nearby learned that something had changed at the monastery. In curiosity they came, and in love they were received. Each was graciously welcomed and made to feel at home. Every effort was taken to care for their needs, and each monk accepted visitors as they were. Men, women, and children came to be refreshed and renewed. The brotherhood grew as men came, even from far away, to join the community. 4 All the visitors and the new brothers were treated as if they were Christ, for the wise monk had said, “One among you is Christ.”

Or to rephrase: There is an angel among us.