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Why Should We Care for Our Neighbor? by Tupper Garden

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”  Hebrews 13:2

Why should we care for our neighbor? Because as Christians we believe God is loose in the world.  Because we believe that life is so much bigger and more mysterious than the calculations we ordinarily use to measure out our days and our concerns.

We catch glimpses of this from time to time, but we try not to pay too much attention to them… They are dangerous; they place our life calculations in jeopardy. Like the thought that the neighbor kid with the grape jelly on his face, or the guy asking for a handout on the Market, or the fellow knocking on your door, might be somehow, an angel, a messenger from God. What are the odds?

So, you are thinking of someone you haven’t seen in twenty years and there they are crossing the street just ahead of you. What are the odds?

So, you sit down at a counter in a strange airport in a strange city and there in front of you, clipped to the napkin holder is a tie clasp that someone has left there with your three initials engraved on the front. What are the odds?

So, you’re driving and daydreaming about an old love that you really hadn’t thought of for some time and the song that used to be “your song” begins playing on the radio. What are the odds?

So, you need someone to fill that position at work, and before you tell a soul about it, a person who is perfect for the job walks in and asks for employment. What are the odds? Glimpses of God’s presence loose in the world, or random coincidence, or the universe trying to tell us something?

Well, nobody knows of course. I am intrigued by the theory that the universe is like a giant spider’s web, upon which all thoughts and actions have a consequence, as when an insect flies into the web, it sends out vibrations across the web….What if all the world in which we live is like such a web, and when we think a thought, or take an action, it sets the web vibrating in reaction for good or ill. And what if that web is not impersonal, but is God, or inseparable from God.

If so, then everything we do and everything we think is of inestimable importance. It sets off a reaction, a vibration, in God’s creation, a creation that God is constantly watching,

and repairing, and loving, and creating, and recreating…..silently.

The heavens are declaring the glory of God… Maybe they are –  really. Maybe that person to whom you show hospitality, even that family member is a messenger from God, an angel. Maybe God is loose in the world and what we do really does matter.

If you think all of this is a bit far-fetched for modern Christians, perhaps you are right. But maybe that is because we have so domesticated our faith that we have all but lost it in the process.

Have you read the Apostles’ Creed lately?

Imagine, for a moment, that what the creed says in its essence is the truth. Imagine that God actually became a part of this creation – this web in which and upon which, we live –  and changed forever the nature of things.

For if God came among us, into this world of strangers at the door, and tie clasps on the napkin holder; if God came into this web of relationships with those strangers and the kid with the jelly smeared face, then do you see that in so doing all of this world becomes a holy place? Do you see that what he said and taught and did gives meaning to all the strangeness and glory that fills these crazy lives of ours?

The world is holy, for it is God’s world, not ours.

Tupper Garden is the senior minister at Raleigh Court Presbyterian Church. Visit them on the web at

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