You Have Welcomed the Stranger

From the Pastor’s Desk

Posted August 30, 2012

Editor’s Note: With summer behind us, we are resuming our From the Pastor’s Desk columns, provided by pastors in the Hettinger area. Currently they will be doing one month rotations, and all are welcome. They will also be placed on the website weekly.

By Pastor Paul Lint

United Methodist Church

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.’ (Matthew 25:34-36 NRSV)

Growing up as a pastor’s kid, I experienced being the new kid in class on more than one occasion. I have moved many times since graduating from college as well so have experienced being the “new kid in town” as an adult. When we look at the analogy that Jesus offers to us in this chapter of Matthew it is strange to see being new in town as equivalent with not having enough to eat or drink or being without clothing or incarcerated. Yet, when you are the stranger, you realize how important familiarity and finding a genuine welcome really are.

The scripture is a challenge to put feet and hands to your words of faith, and I rejoice that Hettinger has taken the challenge to heart. It is important to know that God cares about the sick. It is another thing to dedicate your life to bringing health and wholeness to those people This community has stepped up to the plate for this region of God’s kingdom and offers God’s healing touch in significant ways.

It is important to know the stories of Jesus feeding the 5,000 and realize that God wants people to be fed. Yet, there are many communities that fall short of offering their loaves and fish to make that possible. We can celebrate the people who have allowed God to work in them to create and maintain a food pantry and develop a system to be sure that families and individuals do not slip through the cracks and feel that they need to go to bed hungry.

In America we rarely experience thirst without the knowledge of several places we can get healthy drinking water. It would be easy for us to ignore thoughts of offering that to our neighbor, yet there are members of this community who have stepped out of this place into regions of God’s world that do not have healthy drinking water and have helped to supply that need. I recently heard stories of a local man doing this in the Middle East and I know of a young woman who has gone to Haiti with Haiti Solar Oven Partners who are intentional about teaching how to pasteurize water through solar cooking.

It is also a strange thing for us to think about God’s challenge to clothe our neighbor. “Naked,” is part of a punch line in our lives, yet we support and maintain a thrift store in our community that makes appropriate and affordable clothing available to all. We send clothing to the Congo for children in orphanages.

And Yes, Hettinger does understand how to welcome the stranger. Smiles and introductions go such a long way, and sharing or hearing stories makes the stranger a part of the community. I thank God that from the local church, school and grocery stores to main street and local businesses the Lint family has found God’s love and welcome. I hope that all people who step into our community find that same welcome.

May we continue to be willing to risk our resources, our time and our energy as well as risk that a stranger may have new ideas that might cause us to grow and change in order to be Christ’s hands and feet in Hettinger and in the world, and who knows we may serve Christ in our midst.