Tag Archive | Matthew 25:40

Welcome the Stranger. . .

As we watch television and see the thousands of men, women and children who are trying to flee from the war in Syria and other areas of the Middle East, the world is being called upon to take these refugees in.

But, if you have watched any of the political debates, you know that the current ‘cause celebré’ is not only closing the borders to additional immigrants, but also sending those who are here back from whence they came. Many of the potential political candidates have adopted the attitude that these migrating people (documented or undocumented) are a detriment to our society.

How is it, that we, who profess to be a Christian nation forget one of the primary teachings of Jesus:

    The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. (Leviticus 19:34)

I recently attended a ‘National Welcome Week’ and Citizenship Ceremony held by the City of Columbus Community Relations Commission where we witnessed 40 people from 32 countries become American citizens. This was one of the most moving ceremonies I have ever attended. These people struggled to get to the United States, fulfilled requirements of background checks by Homeland Security, learned English, studied for a citizenship test (which most of our high school graduates could not pass), and willing gave up their citizenship of their native land. These people are now citizens, a part of the integrated fabric of America and Columbus.

For those who consider these new American immigrants a toll on our city, let me provide you with some ‘real’ facts on their impact on Columbus and Central Ohio:

  1. Approximately 9,800 refugees have migrated to the Central Ohio area in the last ten years
  2. 48.4% of all the refugees settling in Ohio from 2012 to 2014 settled in Franklin County
  3. 41.86% of these immigrants are currently enrolled in college or graduated from college
  4. Somalians account for 52.5% of refugees settling in Franklin county since 2002
  5. Refugees’ median household income is $42,000 compared to $51,460 for other households
  6. Refugees/immigrants spend approximately $35.9 million in Columbus yearly
  7. Refugees/immigrants contribute income of approximately $1.6 billion in that same time period
  8. Immigrants constitute 13.6% of the entrepreneurs in Franklin County, employing more than 23,273 employees*

We are reminded by Jesus:

    I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. . . Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brethren you did it to me. (Matthew 25:35, 40)

    Whoever welcomes one such child in my name, welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me. (Matthew 18:5)

As the situation in Africa and the Middle East worsens, I call upon Saint John’s to consider welcoming strangers in collaboration with state agencies such as Community Refugee & Immigration Services (CRIS), to sponsor and support these individuals and families who are coming to Central Ohio to build new lives.

More information about assisting with resettlements can be found on CRIS (Community Refugee & Immigration Services)

* Statistics provided by Community Research Partners in conjunction with the Columbus Community Relations Commission, Community Refugee & Immigration Services, Homeland Security and state and federal government
Written for The Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church, 19 September 20015

Parable of Taking The Lowest Place

Luke 14:1

Jesus is invited to Sabbath dinner at the home of a Pharisee; there are lots of important people there and they are all watching Jesus to see what he will do. The Pharisees were gathering information that would be used later in Jesus’ trial in Jerusalem.

At these dinners, the tables were usually arranged in levels so that the most important people were at the elevated tables where they could see and be seen. When Jesus noticed that the invited guests were jockeying for the ‘best’ seats, he used a parable to speak of the quality of humility. Those people trying to get the best seats felt they deserved it because of their position or wanted to be seen as important even if they were not. ’Jesus’ warning to them was to consider the embarrassment if the host had intended those seats for others and asked them to move.

Can you imagine how you would feel if you were seated where everyone could see you and then had to move to a lesser table? Your ego would be deflated and you would certainly lose face in the eyes of the other guests.

But those who chose to sit in a lesser seat would not be moved, or may even be invited to sit at the higher table.

This parable speaks to the humility of God’s children. In ancient times, those seated at the lower tables were considered servants to the upper tables. So, those who chose to sit there recognized that although they may have gifts and talents that warranted their sitting in a special place, they were humble enough to realize that these gifts and talents brought them no special treatment. They knew that service, especially service to God, was far more
important than prestige.

And Jesus gives a warning to the host that he should not invite only his friends or people who would be obligated to return the favor, but ask those who did not have the means to invite him back in return. By including those who were poor, crippled, lame and blind, the host would be fulfilling Jesus’ reminder that

    what you do for the least of these, you do to me. (Matthew 25:40)

From this parable, we are reminded that we should give back to God with those talents He has given us and we should care for those less fortunate than ourselves. This is the way to Heaven.

delivered at Lindley Assisted Living Center, Athens, OH 29 August 2007