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A welcoming spirit as part of a deeply committed life

December 20, 2023

Daily Scripture

Hebrews 13:1-8

1 Keep loving each other like family. 2 Don’t neglect to open up your homes to guests, because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it. 3 Remember prisoners as if you were in prison with them, and people who are mistreated as if you were in their place. 4 Marriage must be honored in every respect, with no cheating on the relationship, because God will judge the sexually immoral person and the person who commits adultery. 5 Your way of life should be free from the love of money, and you should be content with what you have. After all, he has said, I will never leave you or abandon you [Deuteronomy 31:6; Genesis 28:15]. 6 This is why we can confidently say,
The Lord is my helper,
    and I won’t be afraid.
What can people do to me? [Psalm 118:6]
7 Remember your leaders who spoke God’s word to you. Imitate their faith as you consider the way their lives turned out. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever!

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Too often, we read a verse like Hebrews 13:2 all by itself: “Isn’t that interesting—I might host an angel without knowing it.” The following verses expanded on the idea of an unrecognized messenger from God. Prisoners, a marriage partner, a business or job rival, a leader in the church or in the larger world—verse 1 suggested we should view all those (and more) as potential messengers to welcome, members of God’s large human and heavenly family.

  • “Hospitality to strangers was a major value of the ancient world. This instruction reminds us of the angels who appeared to Abraham in Genesis 18.” * We’ll review Genesis 18 in tomorrow’s GPS. Today we speak more often of the “hospitality industry,” and may assume that restaurants and hotels relieve us of the need to care about strangers. In what ways, other than an overnight bed in your home, can you offer welcome and hospitality to strangers?
  • Scholar William Barclay, an avid student of history, wrote: “Christians became so notorious for their help to those in jail that at the beginning of the fourth century the Emperor Licinius passed new legislation that ‘no one was to show kindness to sufferers in prison by supplying them with food and that no one was to show mercy to those starving in prison.’” * Would your commitment to welcoming others ever move opponents of your faith to try to pass a law to stop you?

Welcoming Lord Jesus, you intentionally came to live as a human, not out of curiosity but because you wanted to do all you could to welcome me into your kingdom. Fill my heart with an equally intense desire to treat others as you did. Amen.

GPS Insights

Amy Oden

Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden is Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality, teaching at several seminaries. Teaching is her calling, and she looks forward to every day with students. Her latest book (Right Here, Right Now: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness, Abingdon Press, 2017) traces ancient mindfulness practice for Christians today.

Where did we get the idea that God only deals in the spectacular? That God only speaks in lightning bolts or grandiose commands? The mundane details of our everyday lives hardly seem the stuff of divine activity. It’s not flashy or shocking or spectacular.

So it’s easy to miss the simple, loving invitations that come to us daily. As Darrell Holtz writes in today’s GPS on Hebrews 13, a messenger from God often isn’t the “angel” we expect, but rather those we encounter every day, those we don’t expect to bring a word from God: spouses, co-workers, leaders, people mistreated or imprisoned.

Most days this doesn’t seem to rise to the level of–ta da!–“divine revelation.” It’s hard to believe it counts as a message from God. I’m still learning that the simple, humble invitations that come my way every day are the Holy One inviting me into abundant life: the hurt I see on a loved one’s face, the colleague who sees something in me that I didn’t see in myself, a friend’s words that challenge my worldview. Not spectacular, yet each speaks a word of Life, holy and true.

“God comes to you disguised as your life,” says Paula D’Arcy. We don’t have to wait for something spectacular or shocking. God is already here. What if today you listen for holy wisdom speaking into your life, through family members, co-workers, drive-through cashiers and outsiders? What if today you are that angel, the messenger of God, speaking into others’ lives a word of hope or peace?

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Kenneth Schenk, study note on Hebrews 13:2 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 451 NT.
** William Barclay, The Letter to the Hebrews (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1976, p. 193.