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Blessed and Blessing: the Stranger among us

In the very first book of the Bible, we discover something essential about hospitality. It’s not optional. When strangers pass by Abraham and Sarah’s dwelling, Abraham quickly provides provisions, food and drink, a place to wash and stay. In Abraham’s time, hospitability was essential. Without food and drink, a stranger in the desert would surely die.

Knowing this, it’s not surprising that Abraham fed his passing strangers well, offered them lodging and care. And then the story takes a twist.

Abraham and Sarah are old. Too old to bear children. Yet the strangers tell Sarah that this time next year she will bear a child. A child would be a great blessing to the couple, yet Sarah understands this is impossible. She laughs at the ridiculousness of the suggestion.

What Sarah and Abraham do not realize is that their strangers are indeed strange—they are angels. And they bless the couple in a strange and unexpected way—Abraham and Sarah will bear a son, Isaac, just as the angels suggested.

This is the story that Paul’s letter to the Hebrews refers to when he says:

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.Hebrews 13:2

We are called to be blessed by others and be a blessing to others. And as Sarah and Abraham discover, sometimes when we extend ourselves to others in need we discover we are the ones who are blessed. 

Welcoming the stranger has taken a sad turn in our world. We’ve forgotten that hospitality is not optional. We’ve forgotten that in blessing others, we are blessed. We’ve forgotten the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus proclaims:

For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me. Matthew 25: 35, 40

Jesus takes the hospitality of Abraham and Sarah and adds another twist. Our lives are so inextricably interconnected that caring for another—any “other”—connects us to Jesus.

Next week is the Fourth of July. I’m guessing you already know where you will watch fireworks. Let me suggest a few other ideas about how you might celebrate the holiday and welcome the stranger.

  1. Help those detained in Minnesota:

The Human Rights Defender Project monitors the local immigration court for human rights and constitutional concerns.As immigration enforcement ramps up, court dockets for detained immigrants  are increasing rapidly, along with the need for monitoring and representation in court. While people facing deportation have no right to court-appointed counsel, the Minnesota Detention Project coordinates volunteer immigration lawyers to represent immigrants at initial hearings in Detained Court when immigrants first appear before a judge after apprehension by federal authorities.

You can Sign up for detained court observation at:  https://goo.gl/forms/7nuUrkvBU8Wwd7Rk2

This project is being coordinated by The Advocates for Human Rights, Robins Kaplan LLP, and the UMN Law School Binger Center for New Americans.

  1. Seek common ground with Eden Prairie Police Department

Citizens Academy is a unique opportunity to see and learn about what goes into making Eden Prairie a safer community.  Application deadline is Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. The applications will be selected by lottery; you will be notified by phone by Aug. 25, 2017, if you have been chosen to participate.

Citizens Academy will run for six sessions on Tuesday evenings Sept. 12–Oct. 17 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Dinner provided.  There is no cost for this event; it is funded by the Eden Prairie Crime Prevention Fund.

  1. Witness Naturalization Ceremonies

Watching people become U.S. citizens can be inspiring, and they and their families appreciate the support.  You can attend a ceremony by checking this link, which is regularly updated. 

http://www.mnd.uscourts.gov/Naturalization-Schedule.pdf

The next naturalization ceremonies will take place in Courtroom 15 of the Minneapolis Courthouse on July 5th at 10 am and 2 pm.

Have a glorious 4th!  Welcome the strangers among us, for you too were once a stranger.

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