BY SCOTT W. ROSEKRANS
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13: 2 (NRSV)
On Sunday, December 1st, we began a four-week Advent study, and, as we were preparing to start the class at 4:00 PM, I looked out the window and saw a homeless man approaching the church. Fortunately, I was not leading the study, so I was able to escort the man back to my office to see how we could help him.
The man explained that he was living nearby in a tent and that he had run out of propane for his little Coleman cookstove and was told by another homeless person that maybe we could help him out. I told him we could as we keep a supply of QFC grocery cards on hand to help people with gas and groceries. We talked for a while as I attempted to learn more about his situation.
I saw that the man had a warm jacket, hat, and gloves, so I inquired about his socks (as I keep Bomba socks in my office to give out). He declined as he had gotten some Bomba socks from the food bank. I then asked if he could use some bean soup mix (which we makeup and distribute to the food bank), which he recognized and gladly accepted. I invited him to stay for the class and the hot soup and bread meal we were having but he politely declined. I sent him off with a prayer, a QFC card, and two bags of soup mix and returned to the class that was already in session.
The class was interesting because we talked about the angels of the Lord that keep popping up to bring messages to Zechariah, Joseph, and Mary about the birth of children that will change the world. Some in the room talked about experiences they had when visited by an angel, and somebody even mentioned welcoming strangers because they might be an angel without you knowing it.
At that point, I took the opportunity to tell them about our visitor. I told them that they probably didn’t notice him approaching the church, explaining that that was why I missed the beginning of the class. They got a good laugh as I told them it might have been a test from God to see if we were really going to practice what we preach by welcoming the stranger.
The irony was not lost on us that it was Sunday evening and a time when we usually aren’t there. I told them I could have just as easily told the stranger we were busy and to come back in the morning during regular office hours so we could talk then. We discussed how blessed we were to be able to share in our abundance with someone who had so little. He didn’t come asking for much, but we were able to meet his need and inquire as to whether or not there was anything more we could do for him.
What a great real-life lesson it was for us as we began our Advent study about a child who would soon come and grow into a disrupter who would challenge the status quo preaching a message about loving your neighbor, even those sleeping in tents within walking distance of your church.
Scott Rosekrans serves as pastor to the people of Community United Methodist Church in Port Hadlock, Washington.