Angels unaware

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R-AngelsOf course you never know who you’re inviting into your home. You assume you know these people. But do you really?

Could it be, as the New Testament book of Hebrews suggests, you’re entertaining angels.

(I note here that the Greek word translated in English as “angels” can as easily be translated “messengers.”)

Ok. I’ll save the language lesson for another day. Since I gave up a belief in the supernatural many years ago, I don’t wonder whether the people sitting across the dining room table might be heavenly beings.

Still, even for this old humanist, dinner guests are special people. That emphatically includes the two women, good friends, who joined us for salmon and a chocolate sundae on our back porch last evening.

I had to laugh that I was the only one at the table without a Ph.D.

The evening put me in such good spirits I found myself washing the dishes this morning by hand, rather than loading the dishwasher. Either way, you always have to put them away.

When I toured the Midwest with the college choir, I was on the receiving end of the hospitality. (At the time I was studying for the ministry.) Church members welcomed us to stay in a guest room for the night. I still have warm memories visiting with these kind people late into the evening and over the usually generous breakfast.

From central Ohio to Michigan’s upper peninsula to northern Indiana, the highlight of such tours often turned out to be such visits. Looking back on all that now, I wonder how all those good people put up with a noisy and messy crew of college students.

Years later, when I toured Israel and other parts of the Mideast, I discovered how people there still practiced the biblical tradition of welcoming and entertaining strangers.

I was even offered tea and cookies in one home where the Israeli homesteaders in Gaza would soon be forcibly removed by soldiers to make way for the return of Palestinians as part of the Camp David peace accords.

Here in Fort Wayne, my wife Toni and I have entertained singers here for programs at schools and at the Grand Wayne Center downtown. We’ve even played host to Tibetan nuns visiting the city.

It never fails, I always feel myself enriched with company. Certainly my knowledge of others is expanded. In the end, it’s such a personal reminder that there are a lot of good people in the world.

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The house guest

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welcome_to_our_home_signWendy rapped on our bedroom door. It was about 6 a.m., maybe earlier.

But when Toni turned off her alarm, she fell back to sleep. Now awake, she was dressed in no time and ready to take Wendy to the airport for her flight home to Minneapolis. I just went back to sleep.

Wendy is the younger sister of Cindy, Toni’s best friend from college. She was in the area for a gathering of girl scouts. For us, it was such a treat to have her with us a couple of days.

Nobody does hospitality better than Toni. My job is to visit and enjoy the special dinners. Maybe best of all, I get to learn more about people I might not know well. The journalist in me just goes into overdrive with company. It’s always been a way to further my post-graduate studies.

I’m sure the obligation of hospitality goes back before Bible days. One scripture reminds us that by being a welcoming host, we might well be entertaining angels unawares. The point of that passage in Hebrews I believe is that you just don’t know who you’re going to be sharing a meal with.

I sure recall being on the receiving end of hospitality during my college days. I often traveled with the college choir. Whether it was in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula or in Delta, Ohio, church members would put up a couple of choir members and then serve us a huge breakfast.

In recent years, we’ve even entertained Buddhist nuns from Nepal in our city. My wife Toni and I also have opened our home to traveling concert singers. Recently, we welcomed an old friend, Doug, and his Korean wife, Suk Ja. They had returned recently from Korea to take up residence in the states.

Doug and I had taught at our alma mater high school, before he joined the Peace Corps and I landed a job writing editorials at the morning paper.

We helped them shop for a house in our city. No luck here. In the meantime, we enjoyed such a great visit. Likely, they’ll end up in California.

I recall from my college days that our hosts treated us as special guests. Often, they’d coax us to sing a few numbers that we had presented during our concert earlier that day.

We always tried to accommodate our hosts, of course.

When I was a theological student, I sometimes served as an interim minister. I stayed with very interesting families. I’m sure I learned more from them than they learned from this green would-be minister.

I’ll never forget staying with a family in North Liberty, Indiana. I’d hop the train from Lansing to South Bend. My host would be at the station, waiting for me.

This church elder was also the town’s funeral director. His home was attached to the mortuary. As I was falling asleep at night, I always thought the odor I faintly detected came from chemicals my host used for embalming.

I never asked.

I don’t recall ever having a bad experience as a guest in some stranger’s home. Nor do I remember a bad experience when we entertained guests in our home. Either way, I’ve always found hospitality one of those happy interludes in life.

I recommend the habit.

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