July 7, 2019 Proper 9, C

July 7, 2019    Proper 9, C


      “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” So says Blanche DuBois in Tennessee William’s play, “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

      Once I was driving on Cape Cod, far from New Orleans and streetcars. I slid off the road on some black ice. Not a bad accident, but I had to wait for the mechanic. I had a car full of kids and a very large dog.

      The nice folks who lived across the road came out and invited us all to wait in their house—even the dog. They had a little tiny dog, and when they gave one of its biscuits to my dog, it was comical. And it was a lovely, kind, thing to do.

      We weren’t the only ones to fall victim to that black ice. Those folks were hospitable to everyone.

      Being hospitable to strangers was a way of life in Biblical times. Over and over the Hebrews are called to care for all people.

      They are reminded that they were strangers in Egypt, and God rescued them.

      Leviticus says, ‘The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the native to you.”

      And the same hospitality was to be extended to travelers. All travelers must be welcome to stay and be fed. You never know when you will be on a journey and need that in return.

      Jesus’ life started with the hospitality of strangers. The kindness of strangers. In a barn, because there was no room at the inn.

      When Jesus gave these marching orders to the seventy, he was just reminding them of the norm.

      They weren’t going to the Hilton.

      The kind of inn that had no room for Mary and Joseph was a large, open, space with a few, small, sort-of-private, rooms. And it was for both animals and people.

      And folks walked from town to town. So you wouldn’t take a lot of stuff. How would you carry it? Where would you put it ? The home that welcomed you was a room where folks lived in the day and slept in the night.

      If you didn’t like the cooking, or if the sleeping mats were too hard, Jesus says you should stay there anyway. Accept the kindness.

      But sometimes there wasn’t kindness.

      Sometimes when the disciples greeted a family with shalom, with peace in the Name of Jesus, they weren’t welcome. Then they moved on to another town that would welcome them. But first they shook off the dust so they wouldn’t take even that with them.

      They went as sheep among wolves. The message they carried about God’s kingdom wasn’t wanted everywhere.

      As today, there are many who want to live by their own rules and not listen to Jesus. They don’t want to hear about God’s love and forgiveness. They aren’t interested in peace, or mercy, or kindness. They live by other standards.

      For them, and for us, the next story Jesus tells is the one we call the Good Samaritan. “Who is my neighbor?” “Everyone!”

      The Letter to the Hebrews cautions, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels, unawares.”

      In my case it was the folks who “entertained” us on that winter day who were certainly angels.

      I don’t know if they were church folk, but that day, as Paul wrote, they showed the “fruit of the Spirit” instead of the “works of the flesh.”

      Paul continues this theme when he calls the folks in Galatia to reprove with gentleness. He calls them, and us, to “bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ.”

      The “law of Christ” is to be loving to everyone.

      It doesn’t have to be burdensome to bear another’s burdens. Buy an extra box of cereal for the food pantry. Pick up that piece of trash that got dropped. Let folks into traffic. Hold a door open. Smile.

      Be with people in their grief. I’m thinking now of the horrific accident in NH that killed 7 and critically injured 3 more. This weekend there are hundreds, or thousands, of motorcyclists in NH paying tribute to folks they never met. Their neighbors.

      Paul says that we should work for the good of all, whenever we can.

      I can think of so many needs out there. So many people needing good worked for them. It’s overwhelming, and when it’s too much to think  about, we don’t.

      My response is to support the people who are actively working to help—in many ways and places.

      I can’t go to the detention camps and give hugs to all the scared and lonely kids. I can’t go to schools and stop kids from being bullies. I can’t go to war zones and stop the fighting. I can’t stop drugs from being sold and taken and ruining lives.   I can educate myself about these issues and give help—paltry sums of money—to agencies that are at ground zero for all these causes.

      If you have better ideas, I’d love to hear them. It breaks my heart to feel so useless and frustrated.

      This does not make me hopeless, however. It gives me courage to be a sheep among the wolves. Courage to keep trying to show folks that God’s kingdom can be here when we let the Spirit move us and not the world’s greed and fear.

      Like two little boys in KS who had a lemonade stand to help the kids in the camps.

      I will never meet these folks I pray for and work to help. I don’t like to lump them together as “these folks.” Each and every on is God’s beloved child. Each and every one is deserving of a life filled with fruits of the Spirit.

      C. S. Lewis wrote, “You have never talked to a mere mortal. Your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.”

      Next week we will hear Jesus’ response to “and who is my neighbor.”

      In the mean time let us remember those fruits of the Spirit and try to work for the good of all.

      As the Dalai Lama has said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

      My thoughts, exactly.

The Rev. Noel Bailey

The Reverend Noel Bailey was born in Providence, is now back in RI for the 4th time, and hopes that this stay is longer than some of the others. She was ordained Priest at St. Michael's, Bristol, in May 1988, More details