One truth to today’s readings is that we have a God who does not disdain small encounters. Three strangers appear outside the tent of Abraham. (Gen. 18:1-10a) Abraham rushes from his tent, “Sir, if I may ask you this favor, please do not go on past your servant. Let some water be brought, that you may bathe your feet, and then rest yourselves under the tree.” God could have gone on, but he doesn’t. God welcomes Abraham’s invitation and the Creator of all rests with Abraham under the cool of the tree. God receives Abraham’s hospitality. It is not a “big thing”. To any casual passerby the scene would seem very ordinary and even unremarkable.
But God is present in this small encounter and Abraham has welcomed God in his three quests and where God is present there is life. One of the guests says that next year Abraham and Sarah, without children for so long, will have a son. This small encounter will produce a small seed from which the nation of Israel will flourish and through that people the Savior will come who will gather all nations and peoples into God’s Kingdom. Our God does not disdain small encounters and from such encounters comes life and history itself is transformed.
God does not disdain small encounters but we do and the value of small encounters is one of the lessons our Lord comes to teach us. In the gospel (Lk. 10:38-42), our Lord enters into the small home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. He neither disdains that home nor their hospitality and friendship rather, he welcomes all of it. Mary elects to sit with the Lord and just be with him. Martha is running about busy and even though in the same house, she is not really with the Lord. How often we are like Martha! Christ is here but we are not. We run around, we remain distracted and anxious, we act busy. Truth be told, we often avoid.
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” Our Lord knows the value and blessing of small encounters and how life can be found in these moments and he wants us to know this also. Christian discipleship is made up of small encounters, choosing the better part and meeting Christ in the moment in which we find ourselves.
Some of you may know that last Saturday I had to put to sleep one of my dogs – Bailey who was fourteen years old and had developed a tumor in his esophagus. Last Saturday was not a good day for me. I believe that one of the ways we can honor the departed, and I think this includes pets, is to learn from them. There are three lessons I learned from Bailey. I think one of the reasons people love dogs so much is that they do what we often wish we could do and not have others look at us like we are crazy. I think we all have a part that would like to stick our heads out of the window of a moving car and just feel the rush of air! I think there is a part of all of us that would often like to drop in the grass and roll around just for the fun of it! Dogs teach us the value of these simple moments. This is the first lesson. They also teach us the value of encounter and this is the second lesson. Dogs often just want to be best friends with everyone they meet, Bailey was this way. I sometimes felt sorry for him because I think I often held him back. It is pretty sad when your dog is more extroverted than you are! Bailey was very patient with me in this but for him none of the things we think are important were important. Dogs welcome everyone as they are and they just do not get worked up about things in the end that just really don’t matter that much. Finally, dogs can teach us the lesson of now. I saw a cartoon recently where a man is sitting on a bench facing a beautiful sunset with a dog sitting on the ground beside him. There are thought bubbles all around the man’s head. One is a flying plane. Another is a fancy car. The third is a large home and the fourth is a corner office. All of these thoughts swirling around the man … all of them distracting him. The dog has one thought bubble – it is he and the man sitting and watching the sunset.
“…you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing.”
Our God neither disdains small moments nor small encounters. There is great wisdom and life to be found when we also learn not to disdain small moments and small encounters.
“Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”