Strangers and Angels


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 62; 145, Genesis 19:1-17 (18-23) 24-29, Hebrews 11:1-12, John 6:27-40

God was determined to destroy the city of Sodom because its inhabitants were irredeemably wicked. Abraham’s nephew Lot was in Sodom, so Abraham bargained with God to spare it if even ten righteous people could be found there. When God sent his angels to the city, they stayed at Lot’s home. A mob containing every last man in Sodom demanded these strangers be surrendered to them, but Lot offered the mob his daughters instead. In the end, the angels helped Lot’s family escape Sodom, which was destroyed along with Gomorrah and two other cities.

The story is complicated because bronze age customs of hospitality meant protecting your guests even at the expense of your family’s safety. It’s complicated because prophets like Ezekiel clearly state the sins of Sodom were “pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door” (16:49), but many insist it was homosexuality. It’s complicated because we tend to think consequences are related only to the events immediately preceding them, when God had decided to destroy Sodom well before his angels were threatened by a violent mob bent on sexual assault.

When protests occur after a racially charged incident, do we reflect on whether the unrest is a result of not only that particular incident, but also of years of neglecting the needs of strangers? When we entertain calls to shut our borders to refugees – the very “least of these” – because of hypothetical dangers, can we point to the scripture where Jesus calls us to mercy … unless we feel threatened? When the average American consumes food and other resources at rates far exceeding the global average, why do we use words like exceptionalism and patriotism instead of gluttony and pride? Why do we point to the alleged sins of others instead of naming our own?

Sodom is complicated because Sodom is us.

Christ calls us to pick up our crosses and lay down our lives, not fold when we are afraid. Radical hospitality in our homes and communities can be scary, but when strangers and angels knock on our doors, it is Christ we welcome in.

Comfort: True hospitality can be intimidating, but God will see us through it.

Challenge:  Ask yourself what are the limits of your hospitality? Would Jesus ask more of you?

Prayer: Lord, help me to see even the least of my sisters and brothers as Christ in need. Amen.

Discussion: Have you ever been aided by a stranger?

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