We are approaching that time of year when the weather turns chilly and we start to light the fireplace each evening. This is one of the things that Janet and I look forward to each year and we have already had a number of fires. In fact, we have a cozy room in our home that we call the Hearth Room where Janet and I sit each evening and watch television. In fact, I am in my chair right now, sitting next to a fire, writing this post… even though it is a little unseasonably warm tonight!
Except for the first apartment, condominium and house that we ever owned, Janet and I have had at least one fireplace in each of the placed we have lived – that’s more than 40 years of living in home with fireplaces. It’s tough to even describe the importance of a fireplace to us. It’s a place to hold great conversations and entertain guests. The warm glow of the embers invite conversation and fuel a kinder, gentler mood.
Back when Janet and I met, around this time of year in 1959, our parents attended adult Sunday School together in a gathering room on the second floor of the church. In one long wall of the room was a mammoth fireplace – with a large hearth. And, the adults who gathered in this room each Sunday morning were members of the Open Hearth Class. Our folks discussed current events, biblical topics and were led by the Associate Pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church – his name was Rev. Edwin Cumby and he lived, with his family, in a parsonage next door. My parents often spoke about the great discussions and friendships that were developed in that room. It was a special place, for sure.
My parents really liked Rev. Cumby and I guess Janet’s folks felt the same way as they rarely missed a Sunday School class. Somewhere, near the end of 1959, our parents started to form a close friendship that lasted for many years – until my Dad died in 1978. In fact, I met Janet in that room, the Open Hearth Room, when we were both little kids. And I grew up knowing that the Toussaints and the Boyds were very dear friends. In a way, it was natural that Janet and I would eventually end up together. Perhaps it was divine intervention and we were ordained to get married and have a family together. As you know, it’s been a great ride so far and we both still love fireplaces!
The Bible is full of stories about fires and hearths. Sacrifices were offered on alters and there are many references to large hearths where the cooking took place. Places like Colonial Williamsburg and Conner Prairie still have exhibits that take us back in time to when large open fireplaces were places that people congregated and ate together.
Our verse for tonight highlights one of the Bible stories when Abraham and Sarah were visited by three strangers; presumably God and two angels. While two of the visitors continue on to Sodom and Gomorrah, the LORD stayed and was entertained by Abraham and Sarah. Trying to be the perfect host, Abraham sent for a calf to be prepared and also asked Sarah to bake some bread. It was during this visit that God informed Abraham and Sarah that they would have a child in a year. Of course, they were disbelieving at first.
Moses, the author of Genesis, tells us in Genesis 18:6, “And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth.” (KJV) So here is another example of entertaining guests around the open fire. My encouragement this evening is that God wants us to have genuine, authentic relationships with one another, although we are all struggling with ways to do that during this pandemic. My prayer is that once this is behind us, we will once again welcome others into our homes, sharing meals with them and building relationships around the fire… just like Janet and I have done since that fateful day in the Open Hearth Class where we first met… Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…