Lectionary 17C + Sunday, July 28, 2019
Trinity Lutheran Church, Worcester
Texts: Genesis 18:20-32 and Luke 11:1-13

Photo:  Jena Hardy, Trinity Minister of Youth, Families, and Outreach, at the beginning of Elm Park Ministries Urban Day Camp at Trinity (July 29 – August 9).

Watch Here (Minutes 23:45)

In the name of Jesus. AMEN.

If you’ve been paying attention to our Sunday scripture readings through July, you will have noticed a very clear theme. It’s a timely and important theme for us as a congregation and as a country. The theme is … hospitality.

Three Sundays ago – Jesus instructed the disciples about what they should do when they both received and failed to receive hospitality as he sent them out in mission. If they were extended hospitality, they should be content, receive it gratefully, and not go looking around for something better. If they were rejected, however, if they failed to receive hospitality of a town or city, then they should just shake the dust off their feet and move on.

Two Sundays ago – Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan and asked the rich man who was the neighbor in the parable? It turns out, the neighbor, was actually the foreigner, the one who showed compassion across borders.  The rich man referenced the ancient teaching that said one’s neighbor included both those born in the country and the foreigner living among the people. “You shall treat the foreigner who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for the foreigner as for yourself, for you too were once refugees in the land of Egypt.”

Last Sunday – we learned that the hospitality Jesus preferred, was the focused hospitality of Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to his stories, rather than Martha’s hospitality of service stained and soiled as it was by her distraction, worry, and judgment. True hospitality is human connection, staying focused on the visitor right in front of you.

And now today, we have two more stories of hospitality.

Our first reading this morning tells the story of Abraham’s inquiry on the totality of God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah. Would God really wipe out the cities, Abraham asked, if there were some righteous people in them? Would God enact God’s punishment upon the city if there were 50 righteous living in the city, what about 45, or 40, or 30, or 20, or even just 10 (a reverse kind of auction) – would God destroy the city?

It’s interesting to consider that at 10 people Abraham lost interest in the city. After inquiring all the way down from 50 to 10, Abraham went no further, he didn’t ask about 9 or fewer people.  With only 9 or fewer did the city deserve to burn? Did Abraham say, “Oh, let ’em burn.” From this we might imagine the mercy of God extending farther than Abraham’s mercy.

What was so wicked about Sodom?  What was the sin of Sodom? The sin was failure to provide hospitality. It was not, as some Christians sadly and unfortunately believe, homosexuality.

As Lutherans, we believe in the principle that scripture interprets scripture, so listen to the Prophet Ezekiel’s description of Sodom’s sin: recorded in Ezekiel 16:49:  “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” 

To reference the parable of the Good Samaritan from two Sunday ago, according to Ezekiel, though the people of Sodom – had excess food and prosperous ease – they were not neighbors to those need – as Ezekiel said, “they did not aid the poor and needy.”

And they did not show hospitality to the angels that visited. Some believe homosexuality was the sin the crime of Sodom because in the next chapter of Genesis, beyond our first reading today, the men of the city wanted to rape the angels.

Rape does not equal homosexuality.

The men of the city did not want to take the angels to coffee or dinner, romance them, bring them flowers, treat them with dignity and respect, and then if things clicked enter into faithful monogamous lifelong relationships them. No, they wanted to sexually assault, rape, and violate the angels against their will as an act of domination.  Of course, God, would be opposed to that!

God’s judgment against Sodom and Gomorrah was not a judgment on homosexuality, it was a judgment on violence, on sexual abuse, on the failure to provide hospitality – not just for the angels, but for the poor and needy among them.

And so, the cities were wiped off the map.

As we consider this, we would do well to remember that verse repeated in the book of Revelation. “Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches” as we soberly reflect on our neglect of the poor and needy among us and the violence done to the visitors who visit us.

Today’s gospel reading, the instruction of Jesus to the disciples on how to pray, is also a story of hospitality.

It is a story of hospitality, because when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are praying that we would be open to receiving the presence of God. We are praying that we would show hospitality to God, to God’s will, to God’s kingdom, to God’ forgiveness in opening our hearts, our minds, our actions, to the very presence of God.

When we pray “Thy Kingdom come thy will be done on earth as in heaven” we are praying that we would show hospitality to the kingdom of God among us, and to the will of God working in us, around us, and through us.

When we pray “Give us today our daily bread”  we are praying that we would receive with thanksgiving and appreciation all the daily bread God showers upon us, daily bread that Martin Luther described in the Small Catechism: as everything included in the necessities and nourishment for our bodies, such as food, drink, upright and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.”

When we pray, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” we are praying for hospitality to receive those who have wronged us, that with open hearts and minds we would demonstrate forgiveness and reconciliation.

The Lord’s Prayer, is a prayer of hospitality. It is a prayer opening our lives in faith to the kingdom of God among us, and through us, and around us.

And so, with our summer scriptures hammering home the theme of  hospitality, it seems like we have been prepared for this day. 

Today we will bless the Counselors and Directors of the Elm Park Ministries Urban Day Camp that begins at Trinity tomorrow morning and runs for the next two weeks. Beginning today, we are called upon to demonstrate hospitality to the campers, the counselors, the counselors-in-training, the directors, and the staff of Elm Park Urban Day Camp.

We are called upon to be good neighbors to this camp, and its participants. We are called, like the Good Samaritan on the dangerous Jericho road tending to the wounded man, To go and do likewise, as we show compassion to all those who come here because of the camp. We are called, to be people of hospitality, as we open this building as a place of welcome, of vibrance, of vitality, of fellowship, and joy.

Remembering the story of Mary and Martha, let us not be distracted and worried like Martha, missing the forest for the trees and letting things get in the way. Let’s remember the most important thing: that what we are called to demonstrate the hospitality of Mary who sat as Jesus’s feet listening.  With a focus in faith, let us sit and listen to the stories this camp will speak over the next two weeks.

There will loud and obvious stories that come with a church campus full of almost 100 children and youth, stories told in laughter and shouts. And, there will be whispered stories, overlooked stories, in quiet corners of shy children, and even in the loudest and boldest – hidden stories of pain and hurt.

As an act of faith, let us demonstrate the hospitality of listening and learning, as we receive the angels in our midst.

For here’s the thing … in the giving of hospitality is the receiving of Christ!

In the hospitality Abraham and Sarah showed to the angels that visited – they received the good news that Sarah would bear a son. In the hospitality Mary showed to Jesus – she received the blessing of Christ that she had chosen the better part. In the hospitality we show – we will receive the very presence of Christ and blessing of God – as we receive Christ who visits us in the camp this week.

Yes, this camp is about an experience we are offering the campers.

But, perhaps even more importantly, this is about how hospitality will shape us! This is about us, in our hospitality extending, receiving the blessing of God as the angels visit us, as Christ himself visits us in our neighbors.

The Good News we celebrate today … the Good News that gives life, hope, and meaning to us today, is the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is the compassionate hospitality of God. In Jesus Christ, God showers us with hospitality as God receives us – sinners that we are – joining us to the communion of saints – the eternal camp of laughter and delight this is communion with God and with all the faithful.

In Jesus Christ, in Water and Word, and in Bread and Cup, God receives us, sitting at our feet and listening to us, howering us with more mercy than we think we deserve.

In Jesus Christ, is God’s work opening us, and all people, to each other. That opened to one another, we would be blessed with all that God so willingly wants to pour out upon us.

And so, on this day, with our scriptures continuing to open us to hospitality …

May thy kingdom come … thy kingdom of Christ’s hospitality and mercy … May thy will be done … thy will of the love, forgiveness, and healing … May our sins be forgiven as we forgiven those who sin against us …

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.