Tag Archives: Welcoming the stranger

Daily Judgment

Living in the Spirit
September 15, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 14:1-12

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

 Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written,
‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
   and every tongue shall give praise to God.’
So then, each of us will be accountable to God. –Romans 7-12

Standing before Christ at the final moment of our lives to receive our judgment is too late. I think it is important that we examine ourselves daily to discern where we are missing the mark in our relationship with God. Such a review allows us the opportunity to make a course correction. We cannot do that unless we apply Christ’s external measuring stick. Amos talks about it as a plumbline. (See Amos 7:8)

Jesus is quoted in Matthew 25 outlining the criteria by which he will judge us. Most are not high priorities in many of our lives. Feeding the hungry and clothing the naked perhaps draw more attention. Should not a part of the emphasis on feeding the hungry and clothing the naked include creating the world where hunger and lack of clothing no longer exists?

Matthew 25 also calls for us to care for the sick. Again we do that as we visit our church members in hospitals and nursing homes, take them food when needed, or provide transportation to services. Is not a part of caring for the sick assuring the adequacy of available, affordable health care for all?

The USA ranks low in providing restorative services to prisoners and Oklahoma ranks among the lowest of states in providing even the most basic care while having a high incarceration rate. Is not the intent of visiting prisoners to restore them to wholeness?

Jesus draws on an ancient practice in the Hebrew community when he instructs us to welcome the stranger. When we turn away the best and brightest of the strangers in our Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) how are we treating others?  Jesus said to welcome the stranger with no strings attached.

I invite you to join with me in daily self-examination of our response to this short list that constitutes a part of the followers of Christ plumbline so that responding to these issues becomes our normal way of being.

Prayer: Lord, guide us in our self-examination so that we can see clearly how our own behavior impacts others. Show us how to love like you. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.


God’s Vision of the Common Good

January 31, 2017

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 58:1-12

Is not this the fast that I choose:
   to loose the bonds of injustice,
   to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
   and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
   and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
   and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
   and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
   the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
   you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. –Isaiah 58:6-9

One of the positives that comes from political discord is we each must grapple with what it is we hold dear. I find it intriguing that we make a big deal out of some issues that are barely mentioned in scripture or not mentioned at all while turning our backs on ways of being that are mentioned throughout scripture multiple times, even commanded by God. Welcoming the stranger is an example. Loving our neighbors is another. These are both subset actions of the umbrella calling to do justice.

Doing justice implies the need to have structures and processes in place for societies to operate in an orderly and fair fashion. The United States functions within a representative democracy with a checks and balance system among three branches of governance; Executive, Judicial, and Legislative. The purpose of such a government is to provide for the Common Good of all its citizens. Such systems can be traced to the beginning of history. For example, Deuteronomy 26.13 describes the care required by the community of faith for widows and orphans.

We are called to do justice as individuals and communities of faith and as citizens of this country. Addressing that calling is challenging when there exists conflict among these entities. Such conflict requires us to reach deeper into the wellspring of God’s love for guidance.

What do we hold dear?

Prayer: Lord, I wonder sometimes how you feel when you receive prayers from your followers that are diametrically opposed. How do you sort that out? Please help us each to have a better and clearer understanding of your vision for us and guide us to find the Common Good for all your children. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.


Wrapped in Love

Abraham-Welcomes-Strangers-in-14th-Century-illuminated-manuscriptLiving in the Spirit
August 25, 2016

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence,
‘The Lord is my helper;
   I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?’ –Hebrews 13:1-6

This sage advice excludes any instruction for us to judge anyone else. The writer of Hebrews takes the time particularly to state that God judges fornicators and adulterers we do not have that assignment. This scripture advises us on how we need to conduct ourselves and examine ourselves.

This scripture, wrapped in love, encourages us to show hospitality to strangers. I worked in a big chain restaurant in high school and college. One day while working the counter an older gentleman scooted onto one of the stools in my station. I handed him a menu. He pushed it away and said, “I just want a cup of black coffee.” As I got the coffee for him, I asked if he would like a piece of pie to go with his drink. He said, “What do you have?” and I gave him the laundry list of pies available that day. He ordered pecan and yes, he did want wiped cream. After serving the pie, I refilled his cup and made some small talk with him while handing him the ticket. Moving on to another customer, I did not notice when he left. He had not touched the pie, and he left me a standard tip. Shortly after that, the manager approached me and said, “Do you know who you just served?” I said, “No I did not recognize him.” The manager said that I had just served the owner of the chain who had taken the time to congratulate the manager on the quality of the service. It seems the owner traveled the country incognito and tested the staff to see if we were fulfilling his goal of providing hospitality. I was just doing what I had been trained to do both by my parents and by that manager.

We are called to welcome the stranger as if he or she were a messenger from God. I believe all strangers are messengers from God sent to enrich our lives or for us to enrich theirs.

Prayer: Lord, show us the Christ in each person we encounter in our walk with you. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 

Finding Our Way

April 28, 2016

Scripture Reading: Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5

And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.

I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. – Revelation 21:10, 22-27

So what do we do in the meantime? The recorder of John’s Revelation sketches out for us the City of God, where there is no need for a temple because God is among us. The is no need for light sources for God is our light. Its gates are always open and all are welcomed and all that enter will be cleansed for good. We are given a glimpse of the end result. It always helps when planning a journey to know where we are going. This City of God is our destination. The question for us to consider with answers put into action is what do we do now and until we get there?

Some hints of our interim activities are given in this scripture. We, too, are called to be light to the world. (Matthew 5:14-16) ‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. We too have been instructed to welcome the stranger (Matthew 25:35b) I was a stranger and you welcomed me.

We too have been told to forgive (Matthew 18:22) ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

 Here are three good paths to follow on our journey to the City of God. Why then do we, who call ourselves Christians, invest so much time in doing the very opposite: casting shadows of hate, building walls of exclusion, and condemning others?

Prayer: Lord be our GPS to your way and your truth and strengthen our faith to follow your directions. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights