This sermon was originally preached via podcast and Facebook Live at Mission Hills United Methodist Church in San Diego, California on June 20, 2021. To listen to the full recording, visit our podcast, “Mission Hills United Methodist Church” or search ‘Mission Hills United Methodist Church’ wherever you get your podcasts. If you would like to donate to the ministries of Mission Hills UMC, you can make a secure online gift here.
Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7
The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.
They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”
The Lord dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised. Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Now Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” And she said, “Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
This past year and a half has been challenging to say the least.
What’s been a challenging part for you throughout this pandemic?
One of the hardest parts for me has been missing the small moments of kindness.
- The smiles without being shielded by masks
- The sitting next to someone to be present with them
- The dropping off baked goods at a friend’s house and eating with them in their living room
These moments may seem too small to matter, but when you’re the one receiving them, they can make all the difference. Now, this pandemic has been full of other expressions of kindness too, through cheers for nurses to newfound uses of Zoom calls with family, but it’s drastically limited how we can show kindness.
As things begin to open up again, we at MHUMC are beginning a new series, in an effort to remind ourselves of the gift of kindness again, what it is, and what scripture says about it. Each theme will be accompanied by a movie that your family can watch in preparation. This week, our theme is ‘kindness is welcoming’, and the movie we chose is Home.
For those who have seen this movie, you already know the plot. If you haven’t, Home is a movie about a group of creatures from another planet who come to Earth to live. Everyone on earth is relocated except for one girl named Tip. She hid from the aliens. Tip however, ends up meeting one of the aliens named Oh, neither of whom trust the other aliens. Where the others kicked the humans off their own planet, Oh was looking for companionship and fun. Together, Oh and Tip go out on an adventure, where Tip teaches Oh about the planet she grew up on, welcoming him in with loving kindness.
Today’s passage from Genesis tells a story of welcome and hospitality as well, showing kindness through it. In addition, it’s also a story about who God is. This is a story about God being God, God’s character being taught through the story and God’s actions in it.
At the beginning, God appears to Abraham in the face of three men. As they appeared, Abraham offered hospitality to the men, feeding them and welcoming them in. Even in his old age, he ran to greet them upon their arrival.
Abraham, Sarah, and the servant welcomed the strangers who passed by, entertaining them and providing hospitality. The kindness they showed, even if it was actually God Godself, teaches us about the gift welcome is.
Can you think of a place or person who fully welcomed you in?
I think about my first churches in Alaska following seminary. I was a 25 year old with no pastor experience, about to walk off the plane and begin this job in rural Alaska, caring spiritually for these people who were 3 or 4 times older than me. Still, when I entered Kenai and Nikiski, Alaska, I felt fully and completely welcomed through the gift of hospitality. The people at this church showed me love through food, through carrying boxes, through introductions and hugs, through cards, and did I mention food already? Like Abraham, Sarah, and the slave, those congregants showed kindness to me, and through that kindness, God revealed herself through them.
Following this first part of the story, we read further, about God allowing Sarah, Abraham’s wife, to bear a child. Our story tells about Abraham and Sarah, two older adults who wanted a child. God tells Abraham that Sarah will bear a child, which Sarah overhears, and it says Sarah laughs, because she’s already been through menopause. There was no way.
Through Isaac’s conception and birth however, God showed Sarah kindness as well, a facet of God’s nature. Like we said at the beginning, this is God being God. A God who went to earth to live among us, who, in the form of Jesus, was welcomed by some and yet not all, that God still chooses kindness for Sarah and Abraham, and for us.
We’ve seen in these two interactions, that we are called to embody the kindness God is. We are called to welcome, to provide hospitality to those we meet. My final question for you all today, is how will you do that?
How can you provide hospitality to show kindness?
As we leave this place, may you be like Abraham, showing up for the stranger and friend alike, revealing the Holy Spirit through your welcome. May you be a reflection of God’s loving kindness, providing hospitality in big ways and small. And may you seek to grow in your relationship with God, a God whose character will always be rooted in welcome for all.
Let us pray:
God of us all, we thank you for allowing us to show up today, to gather in your name to be in community with our fellow beloved. Thank you for inviting us into your presence in this space. Allow us to choose kindness in all the ways we can, showing up and welcoming all who we encounter. In your name we pray, Amen.