Week 6–“Who is ‘the Sojourner’”?: Remember!

Wednesday, April 5

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 food and clothing.  You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deut 10:18-19).

Deuteronomy continually calls upon the people Israel to remember who they are, and who God is. Indeed, those two calls are inextricably intertwined: Israel is the people who were made a people by the Lord who delivered them from bondage. In other words, Israel has direct and personal knowledge of what it means to say that God “is not partial,” because had God shown partiality for the wisest, the strongest, the most prosperous, the best, God would never have chosen this rag-tag band of slaves and outlaws as God’s own! Likewise, Israel knows personally that the Lord  “loves the strangers [Hebrew ger], providing them with food and clothing,” because, as God reminds them, “you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Indeed, in each of the passages regarding the ger we have examined so far God has given Israel this reminder (see Exod 22:21; Lev 19:34). This gives added punch to the commands to love one’s neighbor—including the ger—as oneself; knowing that they have themselves been immigrants and refugees, by loving the gerim, the people of Israel are loving themselves.

With the exception of our Native American brothers and sisters, all of us are here because our ancestors came here from somewhere else. Some, like the famous Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock, came fleeing religious persecution. Some, like my Scottish-Irish forebears, came because of hardship and political oppression at home. Some of us came here in chains. As Americans, a nation of immigrants, it behooves us, too, to remember who we are. Those of us who claim the name Christian need also to remember whose we are, and what it means to be the people of the God “who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing.”

Prayer: O Jesus, your prayer for us was “that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21). Thank you for making us your own people. Forgive us for the exclusion and disunity that have instead prevented the world from seeing you in us. Heal us, we pray, through Jesus our Christ, Amen.