True ritual is a searching indictment of all injustice, a corrective for it, and a model for righteous behavior. Presenting ourselves before God in our ceremonies, we invite his inspection of the entirety of our lives; recognizing this fact, we must comport ourselves accordingly in all that we do. Civil religion and cultural religiosity will betray all those who put their hope in them.
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.
There is perhaps no biblical virtue more foreign to the contemporary Western mind than hospitality. For us, the deeply ethical connotations of hospitality for the stranger—the resident alien or refugee—have been largely replaced with a call for general neighborliness and an often all-too-partisan welcome.
Return now to the martyrs who met for Bible study at Emanuel Church on the evening of June 17th. They teach us very many things, and also many more than I can know. Still, I want to say here that, by their faithful practice, they too illumine the meaning of the Parable of the Sower, and that they do so by indicating what it means to be good and fertile ground.
The proposal to proclaim the adhan or Muslim call to prayer from the top of Duke Chapel’s bell tower yesterday provoked a number of reactions. These ranged from the vitriolic and vengeful to the dismayed and discomforted. From the deluge of emails the university received and the long strings of comments posted after articles covering the issue appeared on websites, these overwhelmingly negative reactions came not just from Christians but also from Jews and those of no faith.
The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats presents hospitality to the poor as a test of a society’s welcome of Jesus. How would we do?
The United States is engaged in a public conversation about what our responsibility is to the thousands of unaccompanied migrant children who are arriving at our southern border. In the story of Ruth we encounter principles of radical hospitality that reshape the debate.