“Is There a Distinctly Christian Way to Engage the “Outsider” and “Stranger?”
I John 4 18-21 “18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.”
God is Love. Loving God and loving our neighbor cannot be separated.
Where does love of God and love of neighbor come from? “Our sin puts our own desires and needs above anything or anyone else, making it impossible for us to love God or neighbor on our own. However, God loves us, even though we do not deserve it, and shows this love by sending the gift of a Savior to the world. God’s love for us in Jesus Christ is so deep and powerful that we can even say, ‘God is love.’ The gift of God’s love makes it possible for us to love God and our neighbors. We love God and one another because God, who is love, first loves us.”
(~thoughts taken from the Lutheran Study Bible)
Each Sunday, November 1 through the 22nd, we will begin to consider why some people in our lives and communities are considered to be “Other.” More importantly, we will prayerfully consider how to begin regarding these “Others” from the perspective of God’s call to love in Jesus Christ. What is the sin of xenophobia? (An aversion or hostility to, disdain for, or fear of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers.) What does the gospel teach and promise of welcoming—inclusion? [See Mark 12:29-31; John 15:1-17]
Let us pray with an open heart and mind that this study will:
1) Empower us to identify the Other in our midst.
2) Help retrain normal human fears of difference.
3) Renew our commitment to embrace the Other in obedience to God’s call in Christ.
4) Help us discover the joy and blessing of welcoming the Other.
• November 1 “Saved by the Other” [Read Romans 5:6-11]
(In addition, we will honor Saints Day)
• November 8 -“The Other, My Enemy” and “Learning to Fear Like Christians” (Created for Connection. Created for Communion. Love in Action.)
“Amazing Grace! — how sweet the sound— that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.” (ELW Hymn #779)
• November 15-“Loving the Other in Church”
Practical steps our church may consider in welcoming and receiving strangers:
1) Lay leaders ask their pastor to discipline herself to spend half as much time visiting witnessing to, and getting to know people who are not (yet) members of our congregation as time spent with members.
2) Have active, personal strategies for welcoming, as well as receiving and integrating the Other community of faith.
• November 22-“Jesus, the Other” Read aloud the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 as you consider: For the people within your reach, who is the neighbor
that is served the least? Which neighbor poses the most risk?
Share with someone how God can help us to overcome the risk for the sake of the Other.
• November 29- Advent Begins.
Closing Prayer: (from Psalm 90:12-17)
“Help us! O Lord our God, to interpret our lives correctly. Set your wisdom deeply in our hearts so that we may accept your correction…Break through our clouded dawn again! O Lord our God, let your sweet beauty rest upon us and give us favor. Come work with us, and then our works will endure, and give us success in all we do.”
(Thoughts and study resources will be engaged from William H. Willimon’s book, “Fear of the Other: No Fear in Love.”)