Welcoming the stranger – Vicar’s weekly thought

Welcoming the stranger

At the end of a long life, in a final song of praise, King David says an amazing and rather strange thing: ‘We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us.’ [1] He has seen God’s Kingdom of Israel deeply established, there is peace, the city of Jerusalem has become a great city and the holy Ark of God has been brought there. There have been many difficulties on the way, many conflicts and wrong turnings, and indeed God has told David that he will not be the one to build his Temple, his son Solomon will. Still, David writing in his most famous Psalm can beautifully say, ‘Surely, (God’s) goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life’ [2] . David, a man of faith and good motives and intention (a most important thing in God’s sight), but one who after all is said and done still says, we are but ‘visitors and strangers in the land’. So when we welcome the stranger, as Jesus powerfully call us to do in his story of the sheep and the goats, let us remember we are not the owners of what we have either. We may be blessed with many things, but as David also says, surveying the mountain of materials given and gathered to build the Temple, ‘Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us!’1 At times we may be strangers, at times we may have gifts to share with others. But we share only what God has given us in the first place. All of us are on a journey, I and the stranger beside me, and our final rest will only come in God’s own city to which we are travelling. David concludes Psalm 23 with words of sure hope in the God who has been faithful to Him through everything, ‘and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.’2 So let us welcome and walk with the stranger too.

[1] 1 Chronicles 29.14-15    [2] Psalm 23.6