Leviticus 19: 9-10
When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God.
Matthew 10: 40-42
“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
1 Peter 4:9-10
Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.
Welcome All Everywhere you go
I like this English word “welcome”, I think it’s a wonderful word. Whenever I hear this word, I feel warm. I feel good. It makes me feel loved and accepted wherever I go. When they welcome me. When they say that word welcome. I feel good. Even when I go to Boston, when I land, I see this sign; “Welcome to Boston” and I feel welcomed. I don’t know whether they really welcome you are not now, especially these days. But when I look at the sign, I feel good. I feel welcomed, this should be the way we human beings should interact with each other. Doesn’t matter where you meet them, just welcome each other. This should be the way we human being should interact with each other. Even in the church sometimes I feel people pass by and don’t even say hi, why would they do that? Did I offend them in any way? Why won’t they even greet me with eye contact? We become so defensive.
Practice Welcoming Strangers
We don’t really welcome other people. You know, when I came back from Madagascar I went out there for a mission and I lost my connecting flight in Paris. Nice place to miss your connecting flight. I arrived there in the morning just 20 minutes I was late. The first plane from Madagascar was late so for 20 minutes, so I lost it, and the next flight was next day, next morning. So I had a whole day in Paris alone. So I walked around everywhere and it’s not, it’s not the picture that I took, but I just walked along the the thin river and I took the subway from the Tegel airport and then just looked at Eiffel Tower, and that’s a place I gotta go, I just walked along the same river and I asked people and you know, many people told me the French people are kind of rude, especially if you speak English, but that was not my experience. They were so friendly, and nice. They gave me a really detailed instruction and how to get there and all that stuff. They welcomed me. I felt like, yeah, I can live in the city, so I felt really welcomed there. This word welcome is what you should practice to your two strangers, to your family, to your friends, to the people that you don’t know. Welcoming heart. That is something that we need to have. You know, when the new people come to our church, they often say the most scary places, most scary place is a fellowship hall. Worship is fine and everything, but once they get into the fellowship hall they don’t know who to talk to, so they feel very awkward. So it’s a difficult place to be in the fellowship hall. So if you see somebody that you don’t know very well, then your warm smile and kind words mean a lot.
Make welcoming Strangers in Your Life a Mission
Even as a pastor, a long time ago, when I first went to Toronto, Korean Presbyterian Church to work as a part time pastor, I felt so awkward and nobody came to talk to me. I mean, they’re all here now. Nobody came to talk to me. But the one person that really made me fell, feel welcome was Barbara Bay. She came up to me and she’s really good at that, you know, and she talked to me. She smiled as she explained about the church and all that. Even as a Hi-C pastor at that time, I feel so welcomed. I, I encountered a very interesting book, it’s called “when strangers meet” and subtitle is “how people you don’t know can transform you.” Very small book, very interesting book. It was written by Tarik. She also spoke at Ted talk. She felt bad when people became so indifferent to each other and she didn’t like to see that.
That’s why she was contemplating writing a book about welcoming other people, how we can talk to strangers and she made that as a mission. Her mission. “I’m going to go and talk to strangers because strangers or people don’t talk to each other.” They treat each other like, they have their guard against each other. So this is what she said. She said in her book “talking to people who are different from us can be radically transformative, if it’s the antidote to fear” So she tries to talk as much as possible to strangers. It is almost like her new found mission. It is resistance to the world where people become indifferent to each other and by doing that people, human beings have become so inhuman and this is what she said “talking to people I have never met is my adventure. It’s my joy, my rebellion, my liberation. It is how I live. This is how we live. Why do we have hostile attitude towards other people? Is it because I have hostility within me? Why are we angry with other people that we don’t know, they didn’t do anything? Why do we avoid them? Why can we approach them? “Hi, how are you?” I do that in the elevator as much as possible. Most people kindly respond. “Hi.” Some of them even invited me for a drink and I gave him a number. He never called me, and that’s how I met him again. “Oh yeah, yeah, sure. Yeah, we’ll do that.” Still didn’t call me, but at least, you know, a kind gesture, maybe by mistake. I told him that I was a pastor. Maybe that’s why he didn’t call me for a drink. You know, we try to avoid people we don’t know. We put a guard against them. Instead of welcoming them in. We create a distance for them. You know when I see that that’s not nice. This shows me a weak character of a person. When they do that, in First Peter, Peter taught us be hospitable, hospitable to one another without complaining. Being hospitable has the same meaning as welcoming. When you invite a guest to your home and you welcome them, you will treat them nicely and you make them feel at home. That is being hospitable and from there, word hospital came. Hospice came, all the good things came from that word. Many cultures have this hospitality built within their culture, Korean, Italian, Taiwanese, Chinese, Vietnamese. They all have this hospitality built within the culture. The Koreans, for example, we never let strangers go home hungry. We always feed them. That’s Korean culture. Jewish people also had some very beautiful tradition. We read a portion of it today. Let me read it again. When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.
Do not Bear all your Fruit to yourself
You shall not strip your vineyard, bare or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You should leave them for the poor and the alien, is not really from Mars, so here it means a stranger for the poor and the stranger. I am the Lord your God, don’t harvest to the edge of it just for your benefit. Just leave them so other people, the poor people, strangers can also benefit from that. That’s a beautiful hospitality built in within their culture. This is how we human beings should live. You don’t just take care of the people you are comfortable with. Same Age, same culture, same race, same gender, whatever. You don’t just take care of people who are like you. You don’t exclusively socialize with people who are like you. You need to reach out to people who are very different from you. You need to be comfortable with strangers.
Fear of Strangers versus Loving your Stranger
There’s a beautiful English word that came from Greek it’s not commonly used so probably you don’t know the meaning of the word, it’s called “Philoxenia.” Philo meaning a love or friend, Xenia meaning strangers. It’s like treating strangers like your friend. That’s what Philoxenia is. Whenever you meet strangers, you treat them like your friend, but there’s another word that comes from the same root which we use quite often these days in the newspaper, everywhere that is xenophobia. Same word as xeno is a stranger. Phobia is fear. Fear of the people who are different from you. Fear of the people who are strangers. These days we see more xenophobia than Philoxenia.
Let all Oppositions Come Together in Harmony
It requires character to treat strangers like your friends, and we should do that. That’s what Jesus taught us to do. Henry Nouwen talked about hospitality in this way, I thought he was quite articulate about hospitality. This is what he said. “Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the strangers can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom, not disturbed by dividing lies.” What a wonderful vision about hospitality. This is welcoming strangers, and creating space to welcome strangers. Jesus also taught us how to live. Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me, welcomes the one who sent me, and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of the disciple. Truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward, it’s a wonderful thing to welcome people. We should think about our attitude towards people we don’t know very well, that will have profound impact on our lives. And then your children, please teach them to say hi. Even this morning, the downstairs in the basement. I walked in, they didn’t even look at me. I feel rejected in my own church. What did I do to you?
Once I went to Niagara with our church group, it was lunchtime. I looked around, there are a whole bunch of people and their was one group, another Korean group, Koreans always everywhere. And then, another group, the majority, most people were white. They were from Niagara Geological Society. And another group, there was an Afghanistan group. And then after lunch I had this urge, “I gotta go, towards these people” almost like a pastoral urge. I had to do this. So I started going, you know, I went to the Korean group, you know, as you predict, gave me something to eat. They’re good at that. So I ate something with them and talked a little bit. And I moved onto a geological society and they welcome me and they told me what they were doing in Niagara and all kinds of things they were explaining to me. Then finally I went to the Afghanistan group, and then an old man was sitting there. So I sat down and started talking, while talking. Oh, this man started crying. He had tears in his eyes. And then he told me his wife just passed away a month ago, so I was listening to him and comforted him. Then after, he started calling one family, about 25 people, and he started calling his relatives, his cousin, his brother and his brother’s wife. Then everyone’s lined up to just to greet me, and I realize, this is Heaven. This is the Kingdom of God. That’s what Kingdom of God is like. People are different. People are strangers gathered together and celebrate our oneness together. And we share our life with each other. Wasn’t that the vision that Isaiah saw? This vision of Isaiah, the wolf shall live with the lamb. The Leopard shall lie down with a kid, the calf and the lion together and the little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze. The young, shall lie down together they will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Natural enemies come together, live together harmoniously. That was the vision of Isaiah. This world, these healings. We were influenced by the culture of this world, the materialistic culture of this world where we have become inhuman, being inhuman. We need to be healed. We need to restore our relationship with each other at sync together.