Angels, Part 2

Today I am feeling very sad. Our Iranian friends are being split up and moved to another town. Ireallydon't understand why.

They have fast become much-loved members of our fellowship of faith. Many tears were shed at our 7:00pm service last night when it was announced. It seems so cruel. They have been through so much, and were just becoming ‘settled’, and now they’re being uprooted again.

In another context we were reminded last night of the first two verses of Hebrews chapter 13:

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

That led me to think about one of my favourite passages of scripture - Genesis 18, when Abraham and Sarah are visited by three 'men' - who turn out to be angels (at the very least), and quite possibly an appearance of the three members of the Godhead...

The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

He said, “If I have found favour in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”

“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”

So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”

Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

And it carries on. There is a beautiful Russian Icon, by Andrei Rublev, called 'The Hospitality of Abraham', which depicts the scene - and makes it quite clear that these three 'men' are the Holy Trinity. There's a lot I want to say about the icon - but I'll save that for another post!

I think these passages of scripture show the importance of showing hospitality to strangers; we can't know who they are, or what they might be bringing us,until we welcome them. Miraculously,Abraham and Sarah have a son, Isaac, as a result of the visit - and that is the start of the fulfilment of God's promise to Abraham that he will be the father of a great nation.

If we fail to welcome the stranger, what might we miss out on? I understand the reluctance of some to allow ‘anyone’ into our country - the fear of terrorism - but at the same time, we risk missing out on so much if we don’t welcome new people. Abraham could have chosen to ignore the three strangers - and what might the result have been? Strangers coming into our midst can bring so much blessing and add so much to the richness of our lives. I understand people being reserved, and shy, with strangers. But a little bit of bravery, and momentary discomfort, can bring huge blessings for everyone!

Paria, Simin, and Zahra may not be angels in the strict sense, but they have been the cause of an outflowing of love and grace in our fellowship.I think they have made us more aware of the need to welcome and care for 'strangers'. Not only that, but they themselves have shown so much love towards others - me not least among them - see the previous post.

I for one will miss them hugely.

God bless you.

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2016