from a sermon by Jim Manchester presented to St. John's MCC on Mother’s Day Sunday, May 14, 2017
Imagine, if you will, you and your family are travelling a road that goes North and South through the land of Canaan – between the present-day nations of Jordan and Israel. You’ve picked the main trading road that has been in use for centuries … farther back than anyone remembers. It isn’t a paved road, but it is hard and very dry.
The road is there because it is the ONLY flat – or relatively flat – route through some very high mountains. Very near you is the Dead Sea, the lowest point (in elevation) on the earth – at 1,410 feet below sea level. You are making your way down a valley between some mountainous cliffs that keep the Dead Sea in place.
We don’t actually know which side of the Dead Sea the road was on because, well, the road and the villages surrounding the road aren’t there anymore. They were destroyed long ago.
You and your family walk around a bend in the road and you see something up on the hill that looks like this. It is a peculiar rock formation that looks like it was put there on purpose.
Your son or daughter tugs on your cloak and asks, “Mamma, what is that up there?”
Mamma turns to Papa and asks, “Do you want to tell this one?”
Papa grins and, since it’s Mother’s Day, he says, “No, you go ahead and tell it. I’ll fill in the details if you leave out anything important.”
And so, the story begins….
“This road has been here forever…. Your Great-Great-Great-Grandfather Abraham and his whole family travelled down this road and settled nearby….
“The trading towns in this area were the ONLY places along the whole road – from Babylon all the way to Egypt – that were like this, but they were terrible people. Selfish beyond reason. No one gave any help to people like us who travelled through here. All the other towns and villages on this road acted like the Marriott people on their best days – offering radical hospitality to every visitor….
“Everyone complained about the people who lived near this stretch of the road, and they complained to God so much, that God decided to do something about it….
- Abraham asked God to spare his nephew, Lot.
- God sent gorgeous looking men to warn Lot and his family.
- The people of Sodom wanted to meet these men as soon as they arrived and tracked them down to Lot’s house.
- It was late and before everyone went to sleep, it seemed like the whole town was outside the house – banging on the door and shouting.
- Lot had been taught by Abraham and his family to offer radical hospitality to his guests, even though the other people around him didn’t.
“But, Momma! What about the pillar of salt back there?”
“It’s a long story, child! We’ll get to that part…. What Lot did next is something you had better NEVER do! He offered his daughters to the town. Luckily, somebody pulled Lot back in the house and slammed the door before he could go fetch his daughters.”
- Everyone was safe inside Lot’s house.
- The next morning, Lot and his family escaped to a little town right over there.
- On the hilltop, just before they reached their destination, God started hurling fire from the sky at all 10 towns in the plain just south of the Dead Sea. The very ones that were so inhospitable. The villages were on fire and everything was destroyed.
- Lot’s wife stopped and looked back. She was turned into that pillar of salt back there.
“Why did she look back?” your child asks.
“No one knows, my child. That’s not a part of the story.”
You and your family walk on in silence as they digest the meaning of this ancient story.