Many years ago, my brother and I took our two high school age sons on a trip to the mountains of Colorado. On the drive home, in the middle of Nebraska, our car started to choke and sputter. We pulled off at the first exit, coasted in to a motel parking lot, and there it died. We were lucky to have gotten off the highway and be at a place where we could stay. We were unlucky in that the nearest town was about three miles away and it was early evening and nothing would be open anymore. There wasn’t much to do but get a room in the motel and wait until morning; and then hope we found a good mechanic who had the time to look at our vehicle as soon as possible. We had to find a repair shop and we were a bit apprehensive about how that would go. On a previous vacation, we were in a similar situation and had a frustrating experience with an ornery and unreliable mechanic. All day we waited while he kept saying he would be getting at it soon. Then when he did get at it, he wasn’t much good, and my brother had to talk him into letting him do it himself with the guy’s tools. We were hoping it would go better this time.
Once we got settled into our room, I wondered if there were any Lutheran churches in the town we were near. Perhaps there would be fellow Lutheran pastor who might be willing to help us out by sending us to a garage with a mechanic we could trust. Maybe he would even put a good word in for us so we could get some prompt attention in the morning. Maybe I would even know the pastor. So I got out the phone book and found two Lutheran churches. No pastors’ names or phone numbers were listed, but I thought I’d try the churches even though it was after hours. A part-time secretary answered at the first church I called. She had just stopped at the church office for a few minutes to pick something up. I told her our problem and asked for the pastor’s phone number. “He’s on vacation,” she said, “but perhaps my husband and I can help you.” She asked what motel we were at and twenty minutes later they were there. They were retired, they said, and would have time to help us out the next day. They had already called a mechanic, a semi-retired friend who still did some work when he felt like it. “He’ll help you in first thing in the morning,” they said, and the husband added, “I’ll bring my pickup and we’ll pull you into town.” Things were looking better.
The next day they were there, right on time. They pulled the car to their friend’s place. The mechanic said he’d have us back on the road in no time. We thanked the couple and thought they would be on their way, but then they said, “There’s no need for you to just sit around here; we want to take you out for breakfast.” We were hungry and happy to agree to the idea, but we said we wanted to buy them their breakfasts. They said “We’ll see about that.” They took us all to a nice place for a big breakfast, and then insisted on paying for everything. When we got back, the mechanic said that there would be a bit of a delay as he had to order a part and the truck would not be there with it for a couple hours. So the couple said they would take us for a ride and show us the area. As part of the tour they also showed us where they lived and where they hid their house-key saying, “We have to leave later today, but if there’s any trouble getting that part and you have to stay another night, just go on in and make yourself at home.” Then we went back to the garage. The part had come, the car was done, and we were on our way. I am still amazed at the hospitality of those wonderful people.
Jesus once said, “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me;… and if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” This is just one of many places in the Bible where we are told in simple terms to lend a hand and help each other out. In Matthew 25 Jesus describes the scene at the last judgment where he says to those on his right, “Come on in, for when I was hungry you fed me, when I was naked you clothed me, when I was thirsty you gave me something to drink…” and so on. He then adds, “Whatever you do to the least of these my brethren, you do it for me.”
In the Old Testament, God told the Israelites to welcome the stranger and to do good to the alien in their land, because they themselves were once strangers and aliens in a strange land. And the prophets were constantly telling the people to deal justly with each other and to care for the poor, the widows, and the orphans. This is a big theme in the Bible and you find something of it in every section of the Scriptures from beginning to end. And this message has, for the last 2000 years, prompted and inspired Christians all over the world to have this heart of service and hospitality.
Therefore, when we broke down with our car in a town where we don’t know anyone, I had good reason to think that by calling a church we might get some help. There was no guarantee that anyone at the church would be willing, and there were probably other helpful people in that town, even if they don’t go to church. But not everyone would help and I had an inkling that I would have my best chance with the church. I am not the only one who thinks that way. In fact, many times I have been on the other end of the phone for such requests. I have had many calls at the church office for food, gas, lodging, or whatever, from strangers who, from past experience, knew that the church would help. Most churches do. It has been the heritage in the Christian church from the beginning, and it has been a powerful and positive witness. (continued…)
Matthew 10:40 — (Jesus said), “ “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”
Matthew 25:40 — (Jesus said), ““The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
James 2:15-16 — Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?
O Lord Jesus Christ, who when on earth was always occupied by your Father’s business: grant that we may not grow weary in well-doing, and give us the grace to do all in your name. Amen.