How interesting that we should have such a fascinating reading as our Old Testament story today! This links in powerfully with our celebration of the Holy Trinity last week. Have another read of it: – Genesis 18:1-15.
The icon by Andrei Rublev, which I spoke of last week, (and the one I have written myself), although they are said to depict the Holy Trinity, are correctly entitled: “The Hospitality of Abraham”.
They tell the story of this visit of the three to Abraham and Sarah, as he sat at the entrance to his tent, by the oaks of Mamre. Abraham saw something powerful in these three visitors. For one thing – they are called “The Lord”. Abraham called his wife, Sarah, to make bread, he prepared yoghurt. He arranged for a barbeque.
Abraham is the epitome of hospitality. He goes out of his way to welcome the stranger. This is one of the most important things to be in the ancient world! It was an unwritten law of all places in those times. If we read ancient Greek stories such as the works of Homer, or any ancient literature, it is clear that hospitality is vital! After all – travel was most often by foot, and if you arrived at a place where someone lived, near sundown, you must be given water, food, and a place to rest. It was a necessary courtesy.
In fact, a careful reading of some other stories in the Hebrew Scriptures, such as the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, reveals that the most terrible sin committed by those people was a lack of hospitality. They failed to welcome the stranger.
So the table of Abraham stands as a symbol for the hospitality of God. God was welcomed at Abraham’s table, by the oaks of Mamre, and God welcomes all to the great banquet. Not only that, but Abraham’s hospitality was to be rewarded. Sarah would give birth to a son. Yet Sarah herself scoffed – how could that be true? She was an old woman, and Abraham was also very old. She laughed.
Yet, God is God, and although it seems ludicrous, what God promises comes to life. The Lord contradicts Sarah’s denial, saying – “Oh, yes, you did laugh!” But her understanding of herself is also contradicted – she is not barren, and she is not too old. God makes the impossible possible. That is the lesson. We welcome God into our hearts and lives, and we can expect the unexpected! It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God! We cannot know what great blessings may be bestowed! We, like Abraham, may be richly blessed, so that we can be a blessing to all.
Blessings for your wintry week!