Angels unawares


So the passage in Elizabethan English sounds a bit strange. But the point of this verse from Hebrews 13 in the New Testament is clear enough: Remember to entertain strangers.

I was reminded of these words this past week when my wife Toni and I played host to old friends, Doug and Sook-Ja Hansen. They were back from their new home in Oregon to collect items they had stored here in Fort Wayne. I first got acquainted with Doug when we taught high school, the school both of us graduated from.

He met his Korean wife when he served in the Peace Corps.

If you read much in the Bible, Old or New Testament, you’ll run across stories of people welcoming strangers into their home. In Bible lands hospitality rates as a high moral value – in fact an obligation.

You’ll find stories that highlight hospitality often in the Gospels about Jesus’ travels. Hospitality is a theme in favorite Old Testament stories.

Toni and I have played host to Buddhist nuns here in the city for a ceremony at riverside. We’ve hosted singers from Cincinnati here for a young people’s musical event at the Grand Wayne Center downtown.

Always, our guests depart and leave us feeling enriched. It’s an old story to me. Long ago, when I studied at a religious college in Michigan, I sang in the school choir and also the bass part in a mixed quartette.

Tours took us to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, northern Ohio and Indiana. Church members would host one or two of the singers for a night, sometimes two. It’s one of my fondest memories from undergraduate days.

Whether you’re the host or the guest, you’re bound to make new friends or, in the case of our friends from Oregon, deepen old friendships. Playing host or guest, you can’t help but learn new things.

You can hear a former stranger’s life story, that person’s trials and tribulations and, often, their adventures, in the military or as a missionary.

When I was a student minister, I stayed weekends in the living quarters of the local undertaker. That was in North Liberty, a town near South Bend, Indiana. The funeral parlor was housed in another part of the family home. I never got accustomed to what I took to be the odor of embalming fluid. But the family treated me royally. Wisely, I never complained about the odor.

Our friends Doug and Sook-Ja have invited us to visit them in Oregon. I suppose we’ll try to make that work out, maybe next summer. I make no claim to being an angel. But I promise to be on my best behavior for a rather ordinary human being.

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