I have a favorite picture here of my maternal grandparents, Medora and Walter.
They lived in simpler times:
they worked the land in western NY state as dairy farmers all their lives
their day started early in the morning with the milking
they had dinner at noon, and coffee at 4pm
In the evenings they played cards and watched Hee Haw and Lawrence Welk on TV.
I love this picture of my grandparents, because it captures their joy.
They truly enjoyed each other, hard work, and company.
There were always good natured teasing and a lot of jokes,
like the poem that hung on their wall:
PLEDGE OF UNITY
The election is over,
The results are known.
The will of the people
Has clearly been shown.
Let's forget the quarrels
And show by our deeds.
We will give our leader
All the help that he (or she) needs.
So let's all get together
And let bitterness pass,
I'll hug your elephant
If you kiss my donkey.
My grandparents gift of enjoying each other extended into a welcoming of others.
My grandmother always had dinner ready at 12 noon,
and anyone on the property was welcome to come.
Coffee hour at 4pm welcomed neighbors, shirt tail relatives, and workers.
One worker, Earl, came to live in the house, and became an adopted family member.
The gift lives on—my cousins welcomed fresh air kids from NYC for summers
and developed a relationship with a family in Ecuador, hosting them on the farm and visiting their country
My parents hosted international students at Thanksgiving every year
and now my own family is having our first exchange from France for two weeks.
Welcoming people into homes used to be something that most Americans did.
It is a treasure that many people cherish, forming lasting bonds
It is also deeply biblical
Welcoming the stranger is a mark of being the people of God
a reminder that they were strangers in the land of Egypt,
and that as God’s people they had a special duty to welcome the foreigner among them.
Furthermore, in a nomadic lifestyle, travelers depended on the hospitality of others to survive.
When travelling there were no Days Inns to stay in, no McD’s to stop for a bite to eat.
Welcoming others was a way of mutual interdependence.
Jesus took it one step further when he welcomed not simply the stranger travelling
but also the outcast elements of society—the poor, the tax collectors, the prostitutes.
St. Paul lists extending hospitality to stranger in his description of the Christian life,
along with loving your enemies and generosity toward others.
The welcoming spirit of my grandparents was a gift from God.
God welcomed them in baptism, and then they passed on the gift.
Like Timothy in our second lesson today,
who had a mother and grandmother who recognized the gift of faith and passed it on to him,
I am the inheritor of this beautiful legacy of sharing, caring, and hospitality.
I am concerned, however, that the hospitality spirit may be waning.
The generations that follow my grandparents are much more programmed
with their music lessons and trips abroad and sport activities
People are so busy with work and activities and errands that there is little time
to notice someone who might be left out let alone invite them into your space.
Add to that the time management involved in extending an invitation, cleaning the house,
preparing a meal… the open door policy of my grandmother seems far away.
If we don’t invite someone different to sit across the table from us in our daily lives,
is it any wonder that our country is becoming more wary of the stranger?
The rhetoric about immigrants this election season as if they are threat
rather than the lifeblood of a nation built on immigration
reflects our fear of the unknown.
We don’t know people, and so we wonder about their background, their motives, their effect on us.
Fear coalesces into walls and protectionism, and suddenly we are no longer a nation
that lives up to the poem on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired and your poor…”
In this environment, St Paul’s words to his protégé Timothy become very timely.
He writes, “Rekindle the gift of God that is within you…
for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice,
but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.”
God’s spirit gives us courage to continue acting on our best impulses.
Our tradition as the people of God encourages us to reach out,
knowing that lively faith entails taking risks.
Biblical faith ensures us that true security is found in God,
and that we cannot compromise our Christian ideals just because times are not favorable.
Our love and self discipline keep us on track as people who welcome the stranger,
because we ourselves have been welcomed.
St. Paul concludes his opening to Timothy: “Guard the good treasure entrusted to you.”
I think about this sentiment as I look at this picture of my grandparents.
They showed me the treasure of hospitality,
what it can mean to others and the joy it brought them.
So I am going to open my door even if my house isn’t clean
I am going to host an exchange student even though I don’t speak a word of French
I am going to put myself out there in getting to know my neighbors and reach out to strangers.
I invite you to do the same.
Together we have a treasure here at OSLC:
as a small community we form tight bonds that support in hard times and share in good times.
but we have to remember that tight bonds can make it hard for a new person to break in
we need constantly to be on the look out for someone who is on the edges
After all, hospitality is a faith practice
we are practicing, which means that our living out of welcome is not perfect—we are working on it.
My treasure today is the gift of welcome.
I am guarding it by putting it into practice.
It’s a treasure that comes from God, and I am eager to share.
What is your treasure?