From the Letter to the Hebrews:

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Hebrews 13:2 (NRSV) – February 10, 2014.)

Dancing AngelThe writer of the Letter to Hebrews, of course, is making a tangential reference to Abraham’s experience at the oaks of Mamre when he entertained three “men” who turned out to be “angels of the Lord.” (Gen. 18)

The ministry of hospitality in the church is a subject of constant discussion. How do we make the stranger among us, the visitor, the newcomer, the seeker, welcome? How do we encourage them to make a connection with our church? How do we incorporate them into our fellowship?

These are important questions and there is never a final answer. The task of being a gracious host and, more importantly, the work of welcoming others as Christ would have welcomed them is never done and we can always get better at it.

However, I don’t believe the writer of this letter is addressing the issue of church growth. I’m not even all that sure he is talking about how we, collectively, as the church practice Sunday morning hospitality. I think he or she is simply giving advice about every day living, about how we interact with . . . well . . . everyone!

A few years ago I read a humorous article about hospitality in a Christian publication. The author had asked Sunday School children how they would obey this verse, how they would prepare to entertain angels. One youngster said that he would be sure that his house was clean and that there was a pot of potatoes in the oven. I think he may have been Irish. Another said that she would be sure to have on her dancing shoes. She may have been Irish, too.

I love that response! It’s great advice: prepare to dance! Some years ago I used to like to line dance at a particular country western saloon. I’m not a big fan of a lot of country western music, but the pieces you can line dance to, I kinda like. Back then one of the popular tunes for line dancing was a song by John Michael Montgomery entitled Life’s a Dance. The chorus went

Life’s a dance you learn as you go.
Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow.
Don’t worry about what you don’t know.
Life’s a dance you learn as you go.

Prepare to dance! Prepare for life! Prepare to entertain angels . . . . G.K. Chesterton is supposed to have said that the reason angels can fly is because they take themselves lightly. When they come into your life, they’ll sweep you off your feet and you’ll be dancing amongst the clouds. Be sure to have on your dancing shoes.


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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.