The readings today deal with our duty to be good hosts. Martha and Mary showed us two ways of being good hosts. Martha showed hospitality by preparing food for Jesus and for all the disciples who had come unexpected to her home. Mary showed hospitality by giving Jesus her complete attention. By saying that Mary’s way was the better of the two, Jesus was saying that often the kindest and most difficult thing for us is giving our complete attention to the concerns of others.
Before getting on to the Old Testament story of Abraham’s excessive hospitality we could look at an Old Testament tradition of being inhospitable. In Chapter Four of the Bible, Cain’s punishment for murdering his brother was that he was made a wandered on the earth. Cain protested, saying, “Anyone who sees me will kill me on sight.” That
objection witnessed to a time when the safe thing to do was to kill any stranger on sight.
In teaching the Old Testament to Sixth Grade students I required them to list all the ways in which Abraham showed hospitality to the guests.
The first three ways involved being alert to their passing by, running to them, bowing.
The next three ways were seeing their stopping as a favor, giving water, offering rest.
The next three ways were offering food, by being fast, and having his wife make loads of bread. Next, Abraham slaughtered a tender steer, gave them curds and milk, waited on them himself.
In our reading the story stops short, but the rest of the passage tells us that Abraham, reluctant at their leaving, he walked on with them. We always feel good about it when someone we have visited with comes out to the car, and hangs on to the doorknob.
The most memorable bible verse on hospitality might be Hebrew’s 13:2, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers for though it some have entertained angels.”