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Hospitable Environment

Envisioning Shalom

Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for in doing so, some have entertained angelswithout knowing it (Hebrews 13:2).

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We have just entered into “Ordinary Time” and the liturgical color is GREEN, symbolizing growth in our faith. Don’t be deceived by the name though, because Ordinary Time at CEH is anything but ordinary! The title “Ordinary” only indicates that we are between some of the big feast/festival days of the liturgical year. Sometimes I use the word “Proper” to distinguish it, because it’s another traditional term used for numbering the holy time of Sundays.

Now that we have worshiped the wonder of the empty tomb, walked with Jesus on the long dusty road to Emmaus without noticing his presence, witnessed the Ascension and the command to “Go! and Teach!”, been filled with the Holy Spirit of Pentecost, and then learned all about the way we label our relationship with God as “Three-in-One,” it is time for us to take that knowledge and grow!

To do this we are going back to the beginning, in a sense. We’ll be traveling through the lectionary readings from Genesis for the next several weeks and learning about Abraham & Sarah, Hagar & Ishmael, Isaac, and the long line of descendants that fulfilled God’s covenant promise to Abraham to make of him a “Great nation.”

What we’ll learn along the way is that through all the laws and covenants, through all of God’s Word to God’s people, everything was communicated so that we could move towards a sense of שָׁלוֹם (Shalom).

Shalom is typically translated “Peace,” or “Good will” and sometimes even “Hello” or “Goodbye,” but even all of those words combine provide an incomplete understanding of the word, and of God’s intent in desiring it for God’s people. More than a personal peace within, it is a sense of the well-being of the whole community. “In the Bible, the word shalom is most commonly used to refer to a state of affairs, one of well‑being, tranquility, prosperity, and security, circumstances unblemished by any sort of defect. Shalom is a blessing, a manifestation of divine grace” (citation here).

A large part of encouraging shalom was offering hospitality — not just the hospitality we like to profess we are so good at: opening our homes to our friends and family and making them feel welcome and well-fed. But opening our lives to the stranger among us.

God’s people were often the “Stranger” who received hospitality which allowed them to thrive and survive. Just in Genesis we have:
Genesis 12:1 – The call of Abram: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Abram became a stranger in a new land, a wandering sojourner).

Genesis 12:10 – “Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to reside there as an alien, for the famine was severe in the land” (Abram and Sarai were literally refugees in search of sustenance).

Genesis 19 – Lot takes his family and flees Sodom (then lived in a cave in the wilderness!).

Genesis 23 – Abraham is a stranger and an alien in the land of Canaan.

In our reading from Sunday (Gen. 18:1-15, 21:1-7), we see Abraham opening his home and offering his own sustenance to three complete strangers who appear in the heat of the day. It’s a terrific story of radical hospitality. He fetches water, seats his guests in the shade of an oak tree, and has Sarah and his servants fix up a scrumptious smorgasbord. Little does he know that the three visitors are messengers from the Lord, bringing Abraham the good news that at this time next year, Sarah will welcome their promised child into the world.

And she laughs. This is the promise she has waited too long for — so long that she took matters into her own hands with her servant Hagar, who birthed Abraham’s son Ishmael. Sarah has waited so long that she abandoned hope that God was going to offer her a portion of the return on the covenantal relationship to make their descendants “as numerous as the grains of sand on the beach, as numerous as the stars in the sky.”

But in offering hospitality, and even in Sarah’s laughter at the foolishness of her bearing a child at such an old age, the covenant was fulfilled and a child was born. They named him “Isaac,” which means “Laughter,” so that everyone could remember what joy the child brought into the lives of Abraham and Sarah, and under impossible circumstances.

In our “Ordinary Time” it is right for us to use this ancient story to help us grow in our faith. Like Sarah, we still laugh at God’s promises and the crazy way those promises are sometimes fulfilled. We doubt that God can handle things and we take them into our own hands, typically creating chaos or disruption. Not that we are called to do nothing — we need to fulfill our end of the covenant with God, and in fulfilling that end we find the answers to the promise.

Our covenant with God is what Jesus requires of us: “Love one another as I have loved you.” This is the “New Covenant” of the cup poured out at the last meal Jesus shared with his buddies around that table, after he had washed their feet and asked them to serve one another in love. The New Covenant is for the forgiveness of sins, and when we live into the love that God wants us to share among ourselves and among the stranger, we may find ourselves entertaining angels.

When we love, wholeheartedly and unreservedly, we certainly do find ourselves living into the concept of Shalom. There’s nothing ordinary about that, is there?

With enduring hope that we can grow together into a fuller understanding of Shalom through the rich stories from Genesis during this extraordinary time.

Peace,

Rev. Paula

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Lend a Hand

Create Shalom Through Serving CEH

Cookies for Donna Childress Service:

Please bring in desserts/cookies to serve at Donna Childress’ service on June 24. We also need assistance serving the food and drinks after the 11:00 service. If you can help, please let us know at the church office: 887-3603.

Habitat Hobble Team or Donations:

Habitat for Humanity of Grand County is holding its annual Habitat Hobble at 8:30 AM on June 24 at Granby Ranch. Join in as part of the CEH team and we can walk the course together. Call or email the church office to become a member of the team! 887-3603 or pastor@eternalhills.org. You can also give a donation to boost the team’s total.

College Group Movie Nights:

Entertain some “angels” at your home for dinner and a movie. The college kids would love the opportunity to stay connected to the congregation and each other through the summer. We have about 5 students in the valley right now. Paula can assist with the dinner and film discussion, or you can work it out yourself! email pastor@eternalhills.org if you want to help. The dates and times are up to you!

Fellowship Hosts:

Practice Radical Hospitality and sign up to serve and clean up fellowship for our social time after the 10:00 Worship Service. There are always extra hands to help you get ready! Food is provided — all you need to do is put the cheese and meats/crackers/cookies on the platters and make coffee, lemonade and water. Call Sue Perkins to sign up.

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