It is September 1st and it marks that Summer is almost over, School has started, student are in class rooms, work places are back to normal, - and even if the warm September weather to a acclimated Dane, still feels like summer, we do know that it is time to begin yet a new Fall Season. In school, at work, in churches and in our mind. Life as we know it, challenges as we face them and struggles as we solve them, never rest. Time and life are real, every minute of our day.
These past August Sundays we have been invited into the Gospel according to Luke. These past August Sundays has been very direct in speaking to us about how to live, how to make choices and how to show our faith in actions, words and deeds. How our world and our families and communities may be marred by passion and division. How every human life, even the crippled bend woman from last Sunday is more important to save and heal than to uphold regulations, laws or creeds. How to live with compassion, care, commitment and charity.
Today – on this first Sunday of September, on this busy ableskiver cooking fundraising day, on this joyous baptism day, - please look at the cover of the bulletin. “Refugee holding his baby.”
Today listen to the powerful reading from Hebrew and the gospel of Luke that truly embodies these faces of a worried stranger, immigrant, refugee with a small child in his arms. A Father who is looking for a safe place, a good home and a possible future for himself and his family – as any parent, as any immigrant, as any human being.
We celebrated the joyous baptism today and welcomed little Mason to the church. A small child on the arms of his loving parents. A small child on his way in life, loved, protected, cared for and safely at home with his family and here in church.
Little Mason was a stranger to most of us, when he came here this morning, but now he is known not only by us but by God. We see him not as a stranger but as beautiful baptized baby and blessed with his name, a new member, of our church and a blessed child of God.
The nature of the church is to be invited and be inviting. From the very invitation at the Baptism to joining at the table of communion, we are invited to come in, to be part of this community and feel at home and safe.
But to be invited and be an inviting church, doesn’t mean just to invite those we know. That is exactly what the gospel is about today. To go out of our comfort zone, to invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind…… and not to neglect showing hospitality to the orphan, the widow, and the stranger.
It is said so boldly beautiful in Hebrews: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
The phrase “entertaining angels unknowingly” is a beautiful way of saying what welcoming stranger can be: like unexpected angels.
So, the stranger suddenly become a visiting angel, and transform from a suspected mistrusted unknown stranger to a welcomed friend.
What is the greatest good we can do for a stranger? Isn’t it to invite him or her in and get to know them? To show the same kind of hospitably that Christ did. Christian charity and good will is also illustrated in our humble hospitality towards strangers.
I remember when our sons we small boys in kindergarten, they were told the phrase Stranger Danger. Off course, it was to instill caution in our children not to trust any stranger and to prevent bad things to happen. But it always bothered me to say Stranger Danger, because it built on the notion that any stranger is a danger.
I have also tried to instill common sense in our boys, common caution, but fundamentally also that – as Will Rodgers once said – “a Stranger is just a friend I haven’t met yet. “
Look at the cover again. “ Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers.” It does not say: Remember to lock the door for any stranger.”
The cover of the bulletin does not let us escape from that call and our reality. We are not just invited to come into the church or invite others to join us, - we are even more invited and inviting to leave this church, live in this world of ours with humble hospitality and generous grace. Maybe we might feel a bit uneasy and uncomfortable with this very direct photo of an Refugee holding his baby, - as it is not a fictional image, but a daily real image at our borders,– as the immigration and migration is one of the biggest political, human and divisive issues of our time and age.
But it is real.
This father and this baby are real human beings at our borders.
And today Gospel and even more the boldly Hebrew reading, does call us to act: do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind, not just our friends. This is the call to humanity, humble hospitality and generous grace, that Jesus truly embodied all his life – and that he calls us to follow.
As good Lutherans many of us grew up on the idea that the church should stay out of politics. As good Lutheran we get uncomfortable as we always have been taught to separate state an church, politics and faith.
As good Lutheran we constantly try to build bridges over political division and divides in our congregations and we truly aim not to be party political.
But as good Lutherans our faith does have implications to our lives in society. Our faith does stay here in church Sunday after Service to show up again next Sunday morning. Our faith should be with us ever step we take and every choice we make. How we treat our strangers, our orphans, our children, our elders, our climate, etc. etc.
Danielle Dowd is a writer, organizer and Christian wrote:
“When we love our neighbor, that love has real implications for our shared public life. Our neighbors need healthcare, housing, justice, food, clean air and water, education and safety. To love our neighbors, we must make sure that they have the things that they need. Often that means getting political – because the uncomfortable truth is that every single aspect of our life is already politized….”
This bulletin cover and the readings today really speak volumes into our current political challenges.
The world is in the midst of perhaps the greatest refugee crisis of the modern age, with over 50 million displaced persons – the greatest number since World War II. European, Middle Eastern, & African countries are facing considerable challenges in receiving and sharing the burden. The United States has its own challenges at the southern borders. Migration and immigration are a hot political topic.
There are many stranger’s migration and moving. There are many strangers knocking on our doors and looking for a new place to call home, just as many of the Danish Immigrants did.
It might be a big political hot topic.
But it is mainly a hot human topic.
And to us as good Lutheran it is a hot Christians topic.
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to stranger for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind… and you will be blessed… because you have entertained angels without knowing it.”
As compassionate Christians we should show our hospitality and try to tear down images of fear, help as we can as individual and as a country, - and remember the simple truth that a stranger is a friend you have not yet met. AMEN.