Reflections on the readings assigned for each week (Revised Common Lectionary).
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Visting St. Andrew's Torrance
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Have you ever seen an angel? In the ancient texts of Israel
and in the more recent writings found in the New Testament, angels are seen as
appearances of God (angel of the Lord). Is it possible that God could appear to
you and you would not recognize such an appearing?
I would say there is a very good chance that none of us will
recognize the Angel of the Lord in our midst.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews offers sage advice
to us, but it is important to truly hear what he is saying to those who have
ears to hear.
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
"Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show
hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels
without knowing it."
What is a stranger? A stranger is someone who is not us, not
one of our kind. A stranger is someone who is so not us that we can almost
define ourselves as not being one of them. When I was in high school Redondo High
and Mira Costa had a real rivalry. We had different mascots, we lived in
different neighborhoods, we dressed in different school colors, and we were
sure we were superior in every way to those Seahawks. I am sure that the Seahawks felt that way about us. We needed one another to be the stranger so that we could feel the strength of unity and a common rival.
It now seems very silly, but don't we continue to need
strangers to define ourselves as "not them" and to create temporary and mutual interest groups that reinforce our kind over against those other strange people?
Note that the author of Hebrews begins this text with a
declaration: "Let mutual love continue." The truth is that church was
made up of strangers who were called together to live in mutual love. The word for
hospitality has an interesting meaning in Greek. To show hospitality was to
welcome the strange. In order to welcome the strange, however, we have to
relinquish our need for the stranger to establish and maintain our own
personal, familial, tribal, and national identity.
It is when a stranger comes among us and we welcome them
with love that is mutual that we experience the angel of the Lord. Notice that
mutual love can only be shared by two people who see one another as equal and
non-rivals. So, in the coming of a stranger we discover something new about
ourselves and about the stranger that our previously separate existence could
not possibly reveal to us.
An angel is a
messenger. What is the message the stranger carries? Have you ever welcome
someone who may have been an enemy or a rival into a relationship of mutual
love? The core foundation of the church is mutual love shared by strangers. We
are called out of our familiar lives and our identities that are mostly set
before we know it. We are called out to be a strange people of mutual love
It is in living together in mutual love that we actually
experience the presence of the angel of the Lord.
Shall we welcome those whom
God calls to be with us?
We have all heard the question: Which came first the chicken or the egg?
But have you ever considered this question: “Which comes first forgiveness or the need to be forgiven?” The first question is about cause and effect. The second question is somewhat different in nature.
Is forgiveness necessary foundationally for a creation such as ours to come into existence. Is there any forgiveness in the very act of coming into being?
Of course, you can probably quote scripture to prove a point about this question, but I am more interested in seeing how you personally have experienced forgiveness as present before, during, or after you admit that you have done something that hurt someone else.
Or, how is forgiveness a foundational reality of creation that makes it possible for us to function as human beings?
Is the cross simply another expression of what preceeded and made possible the original creation, a reminder of God's very nature from before the foundations of the world?
Here is a quote from Richard Rohr that may help us consider the question I have posed. "The most amazing fact about Jesus, unlike almost any other religious founder, is that he found God in disorder and imperfection-and told us that we must do the same or we would never be content on this earth. "
― Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See