Saturday, November 01, 2008

Retelling a Story

As I have been reading blogs the past week or so, I have found that many bloggers have written about wanting this Presidential election over! Most cite the disparity, disagreement, and attacks ad by the parties as having turned them off to the campaign to the point that it has them tuning out the rhetoric.

Actually, I believe that disagreement can be OK, as long as expressed in a civil and tolerable manner. If we all agreed about everything, I don’t believe we’d progress very much and would end up in a homogenized society that would be no fun.

There are, of course, those fanatics and zealots who see their way as the only way. Those are the one who will not debate in a civil and tolerable manner; those are the ones who do not practice tolerance or hospitality.

So, today I want to share with you are parable about the patriarch Abraham. I know that I have blogged this story before, but I have used it several times in sermons, too. Most of my parishioners had forgotten that I had previously told it:

Once upon a time an old man, a stranger, walked out of the desert and into the camp of Abraham, who greeted him as a host is to great all visitors. He opened his camp to this stranger, gave him refreshment, and ordered that a feast be prepared of the best that he had to offer.

When Abraham and the stranger sat down to eat, Abraham took a moment to than YHWH for the meal and to bless the stranger who dined with him. Before they could begin to eat, the stranger said he had to thank his god also. He then pulled a small wooden statue out of his robe. However, before he could begin to pray, Abraham jumped to his feet.

“Is this how you repay my hospitality?” he exclaimed. “I have sworn to my God to avoid all idols and you bring one into my tent and even pray to this piece of wood! Get out! Leave my sight and my camp!

So the stranger left Abraham’s tent and began walking back into the wilderness of the desert.

And God spoke to Abraham, “Abraham! Abraham! What are you doing? I have protected that old man all of his days; have given him all that he needs for life. And he has given thanks to that little piece of wood for all of the blessings that I have bestowed upon him. If I can love him and tolerate his misguided thanks for seventy years, can you not put up with him for one night? Go! Call him back to your camp and treat him to the hospitality that is his due.”

And Abraham did as God commanded.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. ~ Hebrews 13.2

Love the sojourner therefore; for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. ~ Deuteronomy 10:19

And certainly Our messengers came to Ibrahim with good news. They said: Peace.

Peace, said he, and he made no delay in bringing a roasted calf. ~ Qur'an 11.69


  1. Very nice, Nick.

    I agree that disagreement is OK - and actually good for growth. It's very helpful to do it artfully and kindly, but it seems that we often forget that part.

  2. I have always loved this parable! It gives me comfort and eases my spirit when I am struggling with fellow Christians who, for whatever reason, can not be open to simply accepting other religions. Accepting without judgment or prejudice. Seems it should be a simple thing to do - but clearly it is not.

  3. I find it often disheartening that our Christian family needs this lesson so badly.

  4. I like that parapble, too, and Hebrews 13:2 is one of my favorite quotes from the Bible.

    It feels like this country has been in non-stop argument mode ever since Ronald Reagan. I think people are getting exhausted by it.

  5. Tolerance is something we would all do well to develop. It's so easy to make judgments. I am constantly saying three little words to myself whenever I am tempted to judge: "All God's Children".


  6. great post i found you some how looking for things on our sons birth defects esophageal atresia. I wish you the best and god bless

  7. That's a beautiful story. May I ask where you got it? I wonder if it comes from the same source that had Abraham breaking the idols in Ur before he left.

    I picked up a book called Pagans and Christians today. What a way to find common ground. Although I'm no pagan, I enjoy spending time with them--they have an interesting way of approaching the Divine, often with far more reverence than we Christians.

    The quote from the Koran was great. Abraham is the father of many nations.

    Oh, please tell Alex that Artemis is recovering from the fleas. But I forgot to tell him that she never goes outside, so we don't know how she got them. I suspect she had the eggs on her when we first got her as a kitten.

  8. Geez Nick, I commented but it didn't post, so I will try again...

    Asked if you could site the source for the story - an excellent one, btw...

    Also, commented that I can't wait until the election is over either - I don't care for conflicts of any kind, & I really don't follow the campaign trail of either party as I like my blood pressure to remain even! :)

  9. Wise words indeed Nick, thanks for sharing. :)

  10. Nick I really agree with this, kindness is free its the effort some forget to make. To make room & time for people you meet along the way, can reward you with such a valuable understanding.

  11. Carol: Yes, disagreement can be very healthy! I think what we lack today is a sense of respect for one another and plan, old fashioned hospitality.

    Eternally Curious: Tolerance for the beliefs and ideas of others is so very important to the workings of a democracy! I have come to the point that I can tolerate just about anything except the abuse and intolerance.

    Pamela Terry and Edward : I heartily agree with you!

    Thomas: Thank you. I am unsure when it began, but it certainly does seem to have increased since that days of the Reagan administration.

    Poetikat: Yes, our human temptation to judge others is so very strong that I, too, find that I must constantly remind my self that God is judging me as I judge them.

  12. Kayla: I am happy that you found me!

    Enemy of the Republic: Thank you. My original source of the story was a Jesuit priest named Anthony de Mello. He is from India and I met him in St. Louis back in the 1980s while I was attending seminary. De Mello’s source was possibly the Jewish Mishnah or maybe some other Jewish oral tradition; I don’t remember.

    Regarding the book, Pagans and Christians , Christianity is a religion that has borrowed much from other religions, including Pagans.

    I’ll pass the good news that Artemis is recovering from the fleas on to Alex.

    Rhapsody : My original source of the story was a Jesuit priest named Anthony de Mello; I have retold many of the stories he tells in my sermons and on Nick’s Bytes, such as The Cat Tied to the Altar.

    Akelamalu: You are most welcome!

    Queenie: We see eye to eye on this!

  13. Little Sister: Thank, you! Are you out of rehab yet?

  14. Good story and well fitting with what['s been going on. About wanting the election over, this has been one of the most exciting presidential races of all time. From the primaries all the way till now, who would have thought this would happen? Only in America as they say.

  15. I just want it to be over so we know who's going to be president.