You’ve heard the old cliché many times. Usually it goes like this: first person says to second person – “Hey friend, how’d your day go today? Then, every so often – but enough to make it a cliché – second person proclaims with a smirk on their face – “Oh, just another ordinary day!” And always said with a good dose of sarcasm. 

The sarcasm is there because second person has just finished a day that was anything but ordinary. It could be any number of things about second person’s day that made it anything but ordinary … but I thank God for the “anything but ordinary” things that happen in our lives. Especially when those “anything but ordinary” things are people! 

There’s a rule I try to live by when meeting a new person, a stranger. It’s from Hebrews 13:2, and it refers to a story in the Old Testament about Abraham and Sara entertaining strangers at their tent, latter to discover that it was God visiting them in 3 angels. I wonder if God is constantly sending us angels and we end up missing many of them. We fear strangers. We’re uncomfortable around them. They’re unknown. It’s not safe. 

That’s why this little rule is so important when trying to be Christ-like.

Hebrews 13:2 – Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 

Hanging out around the church office, this little rule has come in handy at least weekly for me (and for our trusty “associate minister” office manager, Beth Jones. And sometimes these frequent “visits by strangers” can get a bit dicey. But almost always, the interaction with our new visitor ends up being completely ‘not’ normal. 

That’s when my little rule kicks in, and I ask myself the question: What is normal in the Kingdom of God? And God answers, as God tends to do: “What’s normal in the Kingdom of God is love … divine unconditional love.” That’s not normal in “Burger Kingdom.” 

God continues: “And forgiveness … absolute unequivocal forgiveness.” That’s not normal in “Burger Kingdom.” 

Then God finishes: “And finally, a holy peace of mind and soul is normal in the Kingdom of God.” The world doesn’t understand this peace, because it comes directly as a result of the divine love and absolute forgiveness that God enables us to share with others … even strangers! Again, NOT normal in the world we inhabit.  

Last week, a stranger stopped by the church … twice. Day 1 was Bruce’s turn. His new friend, whose name we learned is Chris, asked Bruce for some help. Bruce gave Chris a hose! Imagine, on this otherwise ordinary day, an unknown man named Chris from Idaho as we later found out, was watering the beautiful garden that surrounds Vine Street Christian Church in Arthur, Illinois. 

Now, compared to Instagram, that may not seem like such a big deal. But hold on. Stop. Re-read that paragraph. No need to comment or judge. Just read it for the story. I can’t read that without seeing God all over it! Do you allow yourself the freedom from the normal and ordinary so you can see God at work around you? 

Chris’s visit with us continued. On Day 1, Chris from Idaho watered plants and helped landscape God’s house on the corner of Park and Vine. Rest assured that Chris also received a generous gift, not because of the work he did (that was work for the strengthening of his soul!), but because he seemed like he could be an angel sent by God.

Next, early in the morning of Day 2, Beth Jones calls me to let me know that an unknown man is at church today and wants to see the pastor. Not unusual. I asked Beth a couple questions. Beth began to tell me some of his story, and it soon became clear that this man was not a stranger. He had been with us before. Like yesterday! And anyway, the sign says that you’re only a stranger once in Arthur. Thus … clearly, not a stranger! 

By the time I got to church, Beth had already had a good conversation with Chris, uncovering much of the useful “intelligence” about his life and circumstances. This helps us get right to the heart of the matter quickly, instead of listening to our new friend who wants to tell you his life story in the next 6 hours, and then asks us for a pair of socks! Praise God that Beth is able to do this!

So it was, Chris had returned to the scene of the previous day’s hosing, and was in need of a little more help. First, Chris told Beth and I about yesterday at the church (Day 1) and the “angel” he met who extended his helping hand and heart. 

As Beth and I sat in my office and listened to Chris talk about his life and his situation, it started to happen all over again to me. You see, each time I apply my little rule of treating strangers as angels, then love, in its God-enabled sneaky way, fills my heart for my newly discovered brother-in-Christ. I love that feeling! And now, I love Chris!  

We gave Chris a little more help, and he refused more. He explained to us that he just needed enough to get to tomorrow, when his brother was coming to pick him up from Idaho and take him and the two children he was caring for, back home. The white van he was driving was staying.  

Not just one day, but two days this time, with someone we most likely will never see again. It happens. George a couple weeks ago. Travis a couple years ago. And many in-between. In some ways, those new friends that were once strangers may be a big part of the reason we are here. Seed planters. 

And often just a day or two to prepare the soil, toss the seed, and cover it up. Rapid Response Seed Sowing! Praying that one day, that one good seed helps to grow a garden of salvation and freedom in the heart of she or he that received it. But knowing all along that “seeds” are God’s business, and trusting that God’s will be done. Can’t you feel the peace?

Life will never be easy for Chris, at least in terms of what we would call easy. And at least not in this world. But he will be ok. He’s part of the family. We’re kin. 

Chris has a spirit within him that is always healing and making whole. It reminds me that the very same Spirit does the very same thing for me. Always healing and making whole, for I too am a sinful person who is not capable on my own of doing anything great for God. 

But then, neither is Chris capable, on his own, of doing great things for God. Nobody is. That’s how I know Chris was an angel. He did something great for me. He enabled me to feel and practice divine love. He showed me what my emotions can be like when forgiveness fills my heart. So, just as I know that Chris will be ok, I also know, because of him, that I will be too. And, yes, so will you. All of us together in the Kingdom of God!  

“The Kingdom of God. Not normal. Not ordinary. Not ever. Praise God!” 

Pastor Bob <><