He said, ‘My lord if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.’ (Gen. 18:3-4)
Every religious leader in town knew about Rabbi Harry Sky. He had been an outspoken advocate for the civil rights movement and had continued to take courageous stands for justice and peace.
One day I got on the elevator at the hospital, and there he was. I said hello and introduced myself. He mumbled. I prayed and said, “I’m teaching a class on the Hebrew Scriptures, and there’re some things I don’t understand and can’t explain.”
He said, “What do you want to know?”
As I recounted my list, he said, “I can’t answer all your questions on this elevator. Let me just come to your class, and your students can ask me whatever they want to.”
I was astounded because it was well known that Harry had a testy relationship with Christians. When Harry came to our class, it felt like an Old Testament prophet was in our midst.
A year after I met Harry, he invited me to join his family for Passover. Soon after arriving, Harry’s son arrived. He looked at me and said, “Dad, he doesn’t belong here.”
Harry said, “Son, he’s my guest. As Jews, it’s our sacred responsibility to open our home to others, even if they’re Christians. You need to apologize to my friend.”
While Harry and his son were having this interchange, I tried to leave, but Harry asked me to remain. Eventually, the son said, “My father’s right. I apologize.”
Today’s scripture is about the sacred responsibility the ancient Jews felt for strangers and guests. I experienced that sacred responsibility on that night with Rabbi Sky and his family.
We Christians have this same sacred responsibility. I encourage us to consider who God might be asking us to invite into our lives or to our homes and tables. When we do extend such hospitality, we may get to see that God has also joined us.
- Do you have the gift of hospitality? If not, what would help you to become more hospitable to others?
- The Jews offered hospitality to strangers and guests because they believed that God could show up in and through such persons. Has God ever shown up in your life through a stranger or unexpected person?
- Both Jews and Christians have the sacred responsibility to offer hospitality. Do you know where hospitality begins? With ourselves. Do you tend to be hostile or hospitable to yourself? If the former, what would it take for you to become kinder and more welcoming?