"Abraham looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them . . . he said, 'Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.'"
Years ago my wife, Linda, and I were travelling around Europe in a VW Bug. At night we would find a good place to park, remove the backs from the front seats and make a bed with an air mattress on top of our belongings.
One evening we arrived after dark on an island of Greece. We drove out on a bluff that appeared to be deserted and set up our Bug hotel for the night.
In the morning, I clambered out of our car to see a row of homes on the bluff. I heard a woman's voice call, in French, "Voulez-vous boirez?"
Though I spoke some French and though her tone was friendly, I was completely sure that what she had said was, "What the heck are you doing parked here? Go away!" I stammered some sort of assurance that we would soon be leaving. Then my mind cranked back to what she had actually said. I realized she, like Abraham, had asked if we would like something to drink.
Stunned by this hospitality to complete strangers, I composed myself, and said, "Yes, thank you." She invited us into her family's home. We spent the next three days parked on their bluff, being blessed by their kindness, and exploring their island home.
How might the biblical story have gone differently, and badly, had Abraham not offered hospitality to the three visitors by the oaks of Mamre?
And how might at least some of our interactions with others be different if we hear what they are really saying and not what we think, or fear, they may be saying?
God, grant that I hear what you and what others are saying with the ears of my heart. Amen.
Anthony B. Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul's Letters to Timothy for a New Day, and he is also the author of the just-published Book of Exodus: A God is still speaking Bible Study. Read his weekly reflections on the current lectionary texts at www.anthonybrobinson.com by clicking on Weekly Reading.