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  • Writer's picturecatherine hutton

Stranger Siblings - there's more to family

Hospitality to Strangers Hebrews 13:1-3

Sharing the pulpit to preach in translation

I have 2 brothers that are my actual siblings. They have the biblical names: Jonathan and David. As children, I adored them and showed this by fighting with them on a regular basis. They were frustrating and annoying - both younger than me and they didn’t know ANYTHING about ANYTHING!! They were lovely and sweet and made me envious of their skills in things I couldn’t do and the way I observed my parents treat them. But I adored them -not that it would have done to let this show… If anyone was cruel or unkind to them out of the house, I would fight fiercely for them as their terrifying big sister-ambassador person. As adults, the sibling relationship is permanent and real. There’s a deep, deep love borne of a shared parentage, upbringing and commitment to one another. The position of brother and sister is one which I know well and value. The fact that Jesus claims us all as his brothers and sisters with God as our heavenly father is stunning. I’m sure we too are annoying and don’t know ANYTHING about ANYTHING… But he too fights for us, adopted into the family of God; co-heirs with Christ. We share a holy bond with Christ, but this extends - when we are little brothers and sisters of Jesus, we are brothers and sisters also with one another: God’s family together. And so there should be, between us also a deep, deep love borne of a shared parentage, upbringing and commitment to one another.

We remember that we are made new by the love of God brought near to us in the person of Jesus Christ. This is for our complete transformation.

Even the good in us is Transformed for Christ’s good purposes: Our homes and families, our desire to serve, our gifts and skills are all made new in Christ Jesus. The love that we share comes directly from God: we are made in his image and it is remade as we are born again into God’s family.

We are who we are because we met Jesus at the cross, found our identity in him and began to live a new life. This new life brought us into the family of God, where we have the joy and sometimes the difficulty of loving each other as brothers and sisters, Jesus our big brother and God our heavenly Father.

The love we have for each other flows from his grace. We don’t have to fake it, but we do have to keep practising until we get it right…

2. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers

In the Gospel of Luke: 24 verses 13-35, we have the account of Jesus meeting with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. It was the day of the Resurrection and they did not expect to see him, yet they were welcoming of he stranger in their company and ensured that he was included in the hospitality that was being shared: both the company and conversation and the meal and place to rest.They had shared the story of their Gospel experience of the empty tomb: but as yet, they had not met the risen Jesus. It is in the stopping, the invitation to greater hospitality and the shared meal that their eyes are opened to the reality of the Risen Jesus presence with them. They have entertained an angel. They have been forever changed by that experience. In the Old Testament, in Genesis 18, there is the account of Abraham’s hospitality that  goes beyond what is expected to bless the stranger. He gives them a royal welcome and treats them to his very best, even before it becomes clear that they are angels.

As Abraham offers good, well-prepared food to his guests, they receive it and eat it in a relaxed way as Abraham himself stands under the tree. It is in the partaking of this meal, that the men bring the news of the fulfilment of God’s Covenant Promise to Abraham; that he would be the father of many nations. Genesis 17:4-5. 

The Covenant between Abraham and Yahweh was one which needed a visible sign of God’s activity in Abraham & Sarah’s life. The meal, prepared and provided by Sarah & Abraham shows their willingness to embrace the needs of the stranger who passes by and so to afford the strangers significance. The meal is spectated by Abraham & Sarah - though they are separated by the tent in which Sarah is confined. 

Their meeting with God in this passage shaped their whole lives. They live hopeful that the promise of God will be fulfilled and after a lifetime of waiting, their own son is born and God’s covenant promise is made real in them. They have a heart of love for God and this is shown as they offer gracious and loving hospitality to strangers. 

Many of you know how hard it is to travel to and live in a place where you are not known and where you do not have brothers and sisters. And yet, you are not without family. God has always had a great love for the stranger and the traveller. He himself has been both. He asks us to not get so comfortable in the welcome that we have received ourselves that we forget to extend that welcome to other strangers, to others who are adrift in places that they do not know.

3. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were with them in prison

4. And those who are mistreated as if you yourself were suffering

Our hospitality is one which is a gift from God. We are reminded

that Jesus himself had a particular mandate for those who were captive, and now there were those whose lives were held captive by oppressors of the Good News

Luke 4 16He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:18“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,because he has anointed meto proclaim good news to the poor.He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisonersand recovery of sight for the blind,to set the oppressed free,19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” 

As people who live in the light of Gospel Hope, people who are freely able to call ourselves Christians, we are in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are mistreated and persecuted.

Our faith should be alive and active; bursting with the Word of God alive and at work within us.

Our faith requires that we draw near when others pull away

That we show and share the practical grace of God in the offering of our hospitality and our encouragement; our love and our family-bond in Jesus.

We do this sensibly and honestly, remembering our safeguarding training and watching over one another as we seek too serve God.

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