Hannah Stone, our Poet Theologian in Virtual Residence, is reminded of the Letter to the Hebrews, 13.2: “Do not neglect to entertain strangers, for some thereby have entertained angels unawares” and invites us to write and share a Haiku in the comments box in response to the following:
Who, or what, might I entertain, unexpectedly (and safely)?
What messages might God have for me? What words should I be sharing?
Last week saw the final 8pm Thursday ‘Clap for our Carers.’ They were a chance to gather with neighbours to say thank you, to remind ourselves how fortunate we are to be served not just by the NHS and carers, but postal workers, mental health professionals, taxi drivers, sewage treatment workers, dustbin operators; everyone else who has worked, in sometimes difficult or dangerous circumstances, to keep us all safe during this pandemic. Annemarie Plas, who initiated the Clap for our Carers, suggested ten weeks was enough. The gratitude continues but times have changed. Some divergent thinking about the practice emerged, and I also wondered about the implications behind the imagery we use (to return to an earlier posting). ‘They are angels’, was a common response when NHS and other care workers were mentioned. To which some replied, ‘no, we are professionals, working under pressure and without always having the protection we need.’
Strictly speaking, angels are messengers from God, and far from being the tinsel-twined, wand-bearing fairy-on-the-Christmas-tree image we sometimes reduce them to, can carry scary messages about what God’s plans. They are perhaps related to prophets, one of the themes of the LCI commissioned poetry anthology And The Stones Fell Open which we were so fortunate to be able to launch just before lockdown commenced.
We’re familiar with the role of angels in the birth narratives, and elsewhere in both Testaments angels are sent with important messages and tasks for God’s people to carry out. They also perform some rescue missions: the angel of the Lord in Acts 5.17-19 released the apostles from captivity, and gave them a task: ‘Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.’
As some of us begin to be able to meet with a few people outside our own household, and even to entertain them if we are fortunate enough to have access to a garden, I’m reminded of the Letter to the Hebrews, 13.2: ‘ Do not neglect to entertain strangers, for some thereby have entertained angels unawares.’ Christian exegetes link this back to the story of the hospitality of Abraham, in Genesis 18.1-8, portrayed memorably by the so-called Trinity icon by Andrei Rublev (b. 1360). Who, or what, might I entertain, unexpectedly (and safely)? What messages might God have for me? What words should I be sharing? I’m not sure of the answers, but sometimes I find haiku a good way of marshalling fragmentary thoughts. Haiku are a Japanese verse form, three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables. You might like to have a go at writing some yourself, and share them in the comments box.
bring us ideas and questions,
not always answers
are not always heard or seen
but are there for us
the heavenly host
celebrates surprising things
if we are open