3rd Sunday after Pentecost—Year A—June 29, 2014
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
This time last year, I was getting ready to head to Camp Calumet to serve as resident camp chaplain for the first week of the summer.
On Thursday, (July 4, 2013), the daily theme was Hospitality. I feared at first that our celebration of Independence Day would overshadow our consideration of the place of hospitality in Jesus’ instructions to the disciples in the 10th chapter of Matthew…and to all us as part of our Christian life. Too much “rah rah USA” and not enough consideration of our neighbor—the “other,” but then I was reminded of what is written on the Statue of Liberty:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
It is a reminder that Hospitality is in fact part of our American identity…at least immortalized on our icons…on our symbols of freedom and in this case welcome as well…even if it is not always an ingrained part of our actions.
It is commonly said about immigrants to America today “why don’t they learn to speak English.” Many immigrant communities open their own grocery stores and cultural centers, and it leads Americans who have been here longer to ask “why didn’t they stay where they came from if they did not want to be like us?”
Well the massive stream of unaccompanied minors pouring over our southern border without legal documentation lately gives a face and story to the reality. These over 50,000 humans (or so since October) from Central America are not just looking for new opportunities, hoping for a little bit better of a life—they are fleeing from the gang violence of El Salvador and the murder capital of the world—Honduras. They are seeking to be delivered from death to life. Even though the risks are high, they see no better option.
I understand that there are many legal ramifications around the issue of immigration, and there are also safety issues at play, but I think sometimes as Americans we tend to forget that most of our families came to this country as immigrants as well, many sailing near that quote, through that golden door, hoping for some semblance of hospitality.
Remember too, hospitality is a two way street. It is not just about welcoming others into your space, to share your life and habits and food and traditions. Part of being hospitable is also about letting the other be hospitable to you—letting someone else serve you, share their culture, take care of you, offer you help…give you “a cup of cold water.”
EVEN a cup of cold water…even…just…here Jesus is not asking for you to totally deny yourself, sell all you have and give it to the poor, or even really put yourself out all that much, just give a cup of cold water to one of these little ones.
That is what Jesus expected the world to do for his disciples—he instructed them to take no extra supplies with them as they went out, so that others might be blessed to show them hospitality. He entrusted them to do the same for others—proclaim the good news. And really, his hope if for all of us to do this for each other.
What would the world look like if we handed out a few more cups of cold water?
What would America look like if we were all just a little more hospitable?
What could Framingham be if we allowed ourselves to be informed and formed by the other?
What could the church be if we welcomed everyone as Christ welcomes us into the Kingdom of God
—just as we are, slaves to sin—and transforms us into slaves of righteousness?
…not into some cookie cutter Christian, but still with our unique qualities but a common mission?
But actually, the Statue of Liberty isn’t the only thing that redeemed the 4th of July spent at Calumet for me…it was also the song “This Land is your Land.” In my pessimistic musings, I wondered to myself: ”Can I sing this song? Is this land really for me AND YOU?” But then on July 5th, one of the summer staff requested that we sing the verses that we had skipped (for time’s sack) the day before. We had sung of the Redwood Forests, golden valleys, and diamond desserts, but we had skipped the lesser known, more politicized verse that mentions the lines of hungry people standing outside the Relief Office…and instead of stating “this land was made for you and me” asks the question “is this land made for you and me?”
That is the question that we must constantly ask ourselves as Americans, humans, and especially as Christians.
Was God’s kingdom made for you AND me?
Yes, the answer is ALWAYS YES!
God made this land for you and me. Amen.
 Matthew 10:42, NRSV.