It’s been a while.
Not just in terms of church and Sundays, and being there (we’ve missed some because of vacations and travel) but even really paying attention beyond the spoken word. But, last week I was at the National Multicultural Conference (PCUSA) in Fort Worth, Texas, and my mind keeps touching on the sermon that Joseph Clifford preached for the opening worship.
The scripture was Luke 24:13-35 and the story of the men travelling the road to Emmaus. This is one of those texts that we’ve heard so many times – sometimes it feels like I couldn’t possibly hear anything new and then I hear it and always always see something different.
Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’
And he riffed on Jesus the stranger, and for some reason, especially in the context of a community of people who know all too well what it means to be and feel like the stranger, it struck new wells beneath the surface for me. What does it mean that Jesus was a stranger who walked with them in their grief, revealed new meaning in the scriptures, and later, invited as a guest became the host at their meal? What does it mean for me, for us when it is a stranger that opens our eyes, feeds us…that it is a stranger that lights a fire in our hearts?
Last night there was a meeting for the folks who’ve signed on to partner with students at Indiana University, and our faculty advisor prayed an echo only explainable by the presence of the Holy spirit. He prayed specifically for the students who will arrive on campus in the coming weeks and feel like strangers. We’re called to love and care for the strangers in our midst, and to offer hospitality. But, we’re also invited to be ministered to by these same strangers, and to listen to them, to let them open our eyes, to let them feed and host us, and to be inspired, to be touched by Holy Spirit through them, to have light and breath come from them into our own lives.
What would it be like to truly see everyone around us – all that we meet on the road – as strangers?