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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Scripture Reading: Genesis 46:28—47:6
Israel sent Judah ahead to Joseph to lead the way before him into Goshen. When they came to the land of Goshen, Joseph made ready his chariot and went up to meet his father Israel in Goshen. He presented himself to him, fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while. Israel said to Joseph, “I can die now, having seen for myself that you are still alive.” Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and tell Pharaoh, and will say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me. The men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock; and they have brought their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have.’ When Pharaoh calls you, and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our ancestors ’—in order that you may settle in the land of Goshen, because all shepherds are abhorrent to the Egyptians.”

So Joseph went and told Pharaoh, “My father and my brothers, with their flocks and herds and all that they possess, have come from the land of Canaan; they are now in the land of Goshen.” From among his brothers he took five men and presented them to Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to his brothers, “What is your occupation?” And they said to Pharaoh, “Your servants are shepherds, as our ancestors were.” They said to Pharaoh, “We have come to reside as aliens in the land; for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks because the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. Now, we ask you, let your servants settle in the land of Goshen.” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land; let them live in the land of Goshen; and if you know that there are capable men among them, put them in charge of my livestock.” (NRSV)

For me, these verses clearly bring to mind immigrants who move—for whatever reason—to a new or foreign land. They hope to be welcomed and safe and maybe even prosper but often are required to live apart as aliens or, more precisely, as “others.” I am not an immigrant, but I think I have a sense in another context—extending and practicing hospitality—of what immigrants must feel when they are welcomed but still are asked to live apart as “others.”

I have been politely and warmly welcomed into a conversation or a gathering, but I was not encouraged to actually become fully engaged in the conversation or the gathering. Instead, though present, I was left to remain or stand apart. And, yes, I have also been on the other side—welcoming an “other” into a conversation, a gathering, or an activity without fully and sincerely engaging that person.

Hospitality to the stranger, to the other, asks more of us than a warm word of welcome. It also asks us to make a commitment—to make that person fully present in our lives and we in theirs, at that precise moment and beyond. In this way, we and the “others” come together to become one—to become us. It is as one that we are fully able to live into our faith and our work as God’s children and to receive God’s grace. 

Gracious God, grant me the courage not only to welcome the “other,” the stranger, into my presence but also into my life. Amen.

Written by Larry Thomas, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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