Think of recent headlines and news stories: murders, violence, intolerance, prejudice – the world's a mess! A young man is warmly welcomed into a prayer meeting in a church in Charleston, SC and proceeds to murder the good people gathered there because they are black! What is becoming of us, of our world
There is the story of a young Hebrew student who approached his rabbi with a question. “Rabbi,” he asked, “How can we tell precisely when night has ended and day has begun? Is it when it is so light that we can no longer see the stars in the sky?” “No, my son,” replied the rabbi. “We know the night has ended and the day begun when we look into the face of the stranger next to us and recognize that he is our brother, she is our sister.”
With God there is no night. There is only day. God looks at each of us and sees a deeply cherished child, never a stranger, a foreigner, an immigrant. There is nothing in us God does not see, nothing about us God does not know. Yet even on our worst days, God's attitude towards us does not falter. God still proclaims, “You are my dear daughter, my beloved son. I love you and I'll never give up on you, never see you as a stranger, a foreigner, an immigrant.
For those of us who daily face our foibles and frailties, God's words both comfort and heal: “You are my dear daughter and beloved son. I love you and I'll never give up on you, never call you a stranger.” But these words are given not just for our comfort. They are God's mandate to us as well. With gracious hospitality, God welcomes every one of us into God's circle of love. No one is ever left outside that circle. It is all inclusive!! With God there is no stranger, nor should there be with us. God asks us to do as God does, to make the habit of hospitality a cornerstone of our lives.
How different our lives would be if we refused to label anyone a stranger. How different our lives would be if, meeting someone for the first time, we would say to ourselves, “I don't know her name, I don't know who she or he is (and I probably never will!) but I do know she is my sister and he is my brother. So I cannot call them strangers. I cannot put them down. I must value and respect them as God does. How different news headlines would be if the young man recently welcomed into the prayer circle at the historic Mother Immanuel church in Charleston SC would see the light the rabbi spoke of: “We know the night has ended and the day begun when we look into the face of the stranger next to us and recognize that he is our brother, she is our sister.” AMEN!