Thursday, December 31, 2015

Welcoming the Hidden Christ – Scripture Readings and Discussion Questions


Welcoming the Hidden Christ – Scripture Readings and Discussion Questions

Genesis 18:1-8 Abraham and Sarah entertain angelic visitors
The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

1. What is your picture of ideal hospitality?  2. Why welcome strangers?  3. What came of this meeting?  4. What can you expect from entertaining strangers?  5. Did Abraham and Sarah know what they were doing, who they were entertaining?  6. Do we recognize the people we are offering hospitality?  7. Does it matter?

Leviticus 19:33-34 (NRSV)
When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

Leviticus 19:33-34 (KJV)
And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

Deuteronomy 10:17-19 (NRSV)
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

1. These passages seem to be about respecting those who are already in the country – ‘resident aliens’. How do we treat new arrivals? “new Americans”? Do we treat temporary visitors and new citizens differently? Why?  2. What are the definitions of migrant, refugee, asylum seeker?

Deuteronomy 26:5-7 (NRSV)
You shall make this response before the Lord your God: ‘A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.

Deuteronomy 26:5-7 (KJV)
And thou shalt speak and say before the Lord thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous: And the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage: And when we cried unto the Lord God of our fathers, the Lord heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labour, and our oppression…

1. This passage, and others, treats sojourners and aliens as somehow similar to widows and orphans and the sick and the imprisoned, that is, as people on the margins, but people with a special claim on our hearts.  2. How do we respond? Do our own experiences of marginalization (as children, minorities, unemployed, etc.) change our response?

1 Kings 17:8-16 The Widow of Zarephath shelters Elijah

Matthew 25:31-46 esp.
v.35 “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” and
v.43 “I was a stranger and you did not welcome me”

1. The scene of final judgment before the throne of God at the end of time is the setting of this passage. Can we imagine that?  2. Here the poor, the marginalized, and the stranger, are identified with Christ himself (though hidden). How does this help us confront the stranger in our own lives?

Romans 15:7
Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Ephesians 2:14
For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.

Ephesians 2:19-20
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.

1. These passages talk about hospitality within the context of the unity within the church between Jews and non-Jews. Are there dividing walls in our own time that Christ breaks down?

Hebrews 13:2 (KJV)
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

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"Ya it's interesting how people don't make that hospitality and immigration connection." — someone who works on the border

The United Nations uses “migrant” generally to refer to people living outside their homeland for a year or more regardless of their reason or legal status and often includes international business people or diplomats who are on the move but not economically disadvantaged. The IOM’s World Migration Report 2005 defines “undocumented” or “irregular migrants” as “workers or members of their families not authorized to enter, to stay or to engage in employment in a state” … The 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees defines a “refugee” as one who, “owing to well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinions, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country”… The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), … defines “internally displaced persons” as those “who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border”…
            Some people may flee their homelands because of political persecution and fall under the category of forced migrants or refugees, for example, but their motivations may also stem from economic considerations and therefore the same people can be economic migrants as well. Most migrants are motivated by “push” factors that drive them away from their homelands and “pull” factors that draw them to better lives in another place. [The term] “refugees” highlights some of the most vulnerable people of the migrant population. (Daniel G. Groody CSC, “Crossing the Divide: Foundations of a Theology of Migration and Refugees” Theological Studies 70 (2009) 642-643 n.)

asylum-seeker:  “an individual who says he/she is a refugee, but whose claim has not yet been definitely evaluated.”  (UNHCR)

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From Coracle, the quarterly magazine of the Iona Community (Winter 2015):

John R. Leech (USA): Recently I have observed and participated in a variety of border and immigration ministries in southern Arizona and northern Mexico, from hospitality (el comedor, Kino Border Initiative, Sonora) to deportation proceedings (Special procedures court, ‘Operation Streamline’, Tucson federal courthouse), from keeping vigil at el Tiradito shrine, remembering those who have died crossing the desert, to training with Tucson Samaritans, and serving at the comedor with Samaritans of Sahuarita and Green Valley.

I have spoken with members of St Michael and All Angels and St Andrew’s Episcopal Churches in Tucson, and with volunteers of the Casa Mariposa/Restoration Project, who have been meeting people at the Greyhound bus station in Tucson, people recently released from detention by ICE/Border Patrol.

This autumn the big news had two parts. First, the Tucson bus station began receiving eighty people a night, women with children, released with instructions to appear for a hearing within a month at an immigration court – presumably near family already in the United States – lest an order for removal close their case. No warning. Just dropped off.

Second, the incredible news that the Border Patrol has flown a thousand kids from Texas to Arizona and then put them into a warehouse (I’ve seen it from the road – it is meant for pallets of flour, not for people) in Nogales, AZ. These are unaccompanied minors from Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras), refugees from violence and extreme poverty. The warehouse serves as a temporary (promise: 72 hours) detention facility. It is on La Quinta Road near the truck crossing into Mexico.

The ongoing need for change in policy and practice, compassionate work for change and a deeper understanding of our fellow human beings – exploited and caught in the middle of a gigantic and ongoing crisis – and the need to reach out in love across boundaries: all this continues.

One thing I have been thinking about lately is that this situation is similar to so many others in humanitarian relief and development work: there is an immediate crisis that gets our attention – and an ongoing problem that needs lasting sustained effort.

All of a sudden on our own southern border is an immense influx of refugees, in two remarkable groups, women with children seeking to be reunited with their families, and unaccompanied minors, mainly teenagers but also younger children, who have been sent north without adults.

Preponderantly these people have come north through Mexico from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Why? Besides a sell-job by human smugglers, there are economic and political reasons for this migration.

People come to Arizona to work, to re-unite with their families, or to find and begin a new chapter in their life.

We need to practice a theology of hospitality – a spirituality of migration. We were strangers once too. So – an ongoing need is there. The need for change – in our national policies, in our practices of welcome, in our influence on conditions in other countries, in our attitudes toward the ‘foreigner’ – continues.

(“Sparks of the Light”, Coracle, Winter 2014, 13-14)

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