I suspect many of us have ancestors who were warmly welcomed into these United States as immigrants, as “strangers,” from foreign lands. And as Christians, as Lutherans, we continue a tradition of welcoming strangers among us. We also have a tradition of showing generous hospitality to political and economic refugees. We continue a tradition found in the Old Testament in which God’s people were called again and again to care for the “strangers” among them…foreigners, who because of famine or some other hardship, found themselves living among the Israelites. For their part, God expected the Israelites to treat these “strangers” with compassion and justice. In Deuteronomy 10:19 God reminds the Israelites to recall that they had experienced that it was not easy to live in a foreign land. And God asked them to remember how they had been treated and to “love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
It is no news to you and I that many refugees have come from many lands to this country seeking safety and opportunity. It is good that many have assimilated into our communities. Still, I wonder if we could do better at welcoming them into our faith communities. I also wonder if, as Lutherans, we truly recognize that these “strangers” among us come with talents, energy and faith that our churches and our communities can truly use.
For all that, and for many other reasons, it is good that Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church is truly a welcoming place. We continue to receive all people, regardless of whom they might be or where they come from. And we welcome the “stranger” as though we are welcoming our Lord. We welcome one another, as the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 15:7, just as Christ has welcomed us. May we continue to do so.
Christ’s Peace, Pastor Steve