When one of my nieces was three, she was a little parrot, eager to participate in adult conversation, contributing her own versions of phrases she had heard. “How in the world are you doing?” became “How are you doing in the world?” So I ask you, how are you doing in the world?
Your answer may depend on where in the world you are- and how much you’re aware of what is going on in this crazy place.
The air we’re breathing seems thick with hurt and fear and sadness and anger over the terrorism we’ve seen this past week, the plight of the refugees and how we choose to respond to them. Do we extend a hand and welcome them in, perhaps increasing the risk we might face? Or do we pull up the welcome mat and bolt closed the doors, shutting them out? What does God call us to do?
Our children have been thinking about this too. In Sunday school on Sunday, they studied what happened when God’s people in Jerusalem were forced out of their homeland by war, enslaved by the Babylonians and finally allowed to return by the Persians. We talked about how sad they must have been, how they they hung their harps on weeping willow trees and sang mournful songs about the home they left behind. We remembered how they turned their bodies towards Jerusalem whenever they said their prayers because they believed God was still there, so far away. And we talked about how foreign land eventually became home for some of them, as they learned that God was with them wherever they were.
The kids felt for these people of long ago. “Home is a place to relax and be happy. Everybody needs one. When you are homesick, you don’t have that.”
Tonight at church supper, a couple of them told me what they knew about today’s refugees. “Some people think we should only welcome them if they’re Christians. What do you think about that?” I asked.
“That’s terrible,” one child said, “Jesus never checked to see if people ‘deserved’ to get help. He just helped.” Another bit her lip in thought. “But he have a test about one thing,” she said. “You know, that one to see if you’re following him or not?”
“A test? Are you sure?”
“Yes, you know. From Discipleship Class. Remember?”
I had no idea what she was talking about.
“THE WINDOW! Come on, Miss Becky. Remember? It’s one way to tell if we’re following Jesus.”
Oh yeah. These windows. The Acts of Christian Mercy windows in our chapel.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:31-40,
Yes, God, I hear you. You’re a turn the other cheek kind of God. You don’t promise us riches from doing what you ask. You don’t promise us warm and fuzzy feelings or pats on the back or even that life will feel better or safer. You just ask us to do it. To love as you love.
Give food. Give drink. Welcome strangers. Clothe the naked. Take care of the sick. Visit the prisoners.
Thanks, kids, for the reminder.