The quest for a homeland and the experience of being a stranger and an alien—a refugee—in the world is central to the calling of the faithful in Hebrews 11. This reality should remain integral to our self-understanding as the people of God today.
Just as asylum seekers fill US migrant detention centers, so too this week’s lectionary readings address social injustices faced by the stranger and the poor. Both readings present consequences for those who fail to extend hospitality to the vulnerable other.
In the midst of a complicated and troubled world it may seem impossible to make a difference, and yet, the wish of a little Israelite girl says otherwise. The spirit of the young Israelite girl and her larger cadre of enslave servants to Naaman live on today in the resourceful actions and tireless work of so many influential youth in our world, those whose passion and will for change persist.
The posture that invites those who are struggling for freedom to “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you” is a political posture laden with messianic power.
Wisdom is available to the entirety of creation, regardless of gender, class, race, or any boundary established by humanity.
Rather than portraying human difference as the punishment of God, Babel and Pentecost are complementary stories, each highlighting God’s intention for cultural and linguistic diversity. As we draw near to Pentecost Sunday, may we also consider the inherent value of language as a cultural identity marker and partner as advocates for language preservation.
In our own world, the Bethesda story reminds us of the fact that social and economic systems meant to assist the needy often keep them in poverty. Our story suggests that the 40 million Americans who live in poverty will need to doubt and challenge the system, and to look for help outside of it. Further, our sermons will need to speak life into death as a reminder that there is life beyond the system.