By the time this blog post goes live over 80 people will have gathered at Stony Point Center for a Sanctuary Training hosted by the Synod of the Northeast, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, the Community of Living Traditions and the National Sanctuary Movement. We will remember people of faith’s long history of offering refuge and sanctuary to immigrants and refugees. We will look to the future of how we will be called to serve in this time. We will ground ourselves in the call of God’s Word.
What scripture text comes to mind when you think of the words “hospitality” or “sanctuary”? There are so many options. My mind has been dwelling on Genesis 18:1-8…
“The Lord appeared to Abraham at the oaks of Mamre while he sat at the entrance of his tent in the day’s heat. He looked up and suddenly saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them, he ran from his tent entrance to greet them and bowed deeply. He said, “Sirs, if you would be so kind, don’t just pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought so you may wash your feet and refresh yourselves under the tree. Let me offer you a little bread so you will feel stronger, and after that you may leave your servant and go on your way—since you have visited your servant.”
They responded, “Fine. Do just as you have said.”
So Abraham hurried to Sarah at his tent and said, “Hurry! Knead three seahs of the finest flour and make some baked goods!” Abraham ran to the cattle, took a healthy young calf, and gave it to a young servant, who prepared it quickly. Then Abraham took butter, milk, and the calf that had been prepared, put the food in front of them, and stood under the tree near them as they ate.”
Without knowing who was before them, Abraham and Sarah responded by providing foot-washing, the shade of an Oak tree, bread and meat to eat, and a place to rest. Without even knowing the identity of the men who arrived at their camp, hospitality was the immediate response. This is anything but extreme vetting. This is sacred hospitality.
May this holy text give us courage in this time, to risk inviting the unknown and to receive God into our midst.
Sarah Henkel is a Teaching Elder. She is a resident at Stony Point Center and member of the Community of Living Traditions, a multifaith community of Jews, Muslims, and Christians dedicated to the practice and study of radical hospitality, justice, and nonviolence.