Sometimes our words are given little thought.
Sometimes we have heard the same words so many times that they lose their meaning.
Every week at New City as we finish our first set of music, one of our worship leaders prays and then says something along the lines of, “Let us welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us.” Those words, though repeated weekly have been chosen with much thought and intent. They aren’t just words. And the couple of minutes that follow aren’t just awkward meet and greet minutes. This is a time in our gathering to both remember the gospel and practice it.
12 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? 14 Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. 15 Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. 17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. 18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. 19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 20 You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. 21 He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen. 22 Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven. (Deut 10)
The ”sojourner” was someone who was not native to the place that they found themselves, foreigner in a strange land. As God was preparing His people for the Promised Land, communicating the Law and helping them understand how it was he wanted them to live, as His Kingdom, He instructs them to love the sojourner. He also tells them why they should love the sojourner – because He loves the sojourner and because they should not forget that for more than 400 years, they were sojourners in the land of Egypt. In fact, God puts the sojourner in the same category as the fatherless and widows. He cares for them.
This is Good News!
We see and experience this, each one of us, in the gospel, and that is ultimately what His instructions to Israel point us to!
Paul says in Ephesians 2 that we were once alienated from Israel, we were strangers to the covenants of promise, we were without hope, without God and far from Him. But now in Christ Jesus we who were once far off and strangers have been brought near by the blood of Christ. So, now we are no longer sojourners, Paul said in verse 19, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the family of God. This is the gospel!
In Christ, God has turned us from strangers to children, from sojourners to citizens. He has welcomed us as family. He has done so because of His great love for us.
In Deuteronomy, Israel was to be a picture of the Kingdom of God… the Kingdom present. And the Kingdom was to be a place that welcomed the stranger. God’s people were to be welcoming because He is welcoming. Their care and welcome pointed to His care and welcome and ultimately to the greatest care and welcome anyone could receive – the care and welcome that is ours in Christ. We, the church are now the Kingdom present. Our welcoming of the stranger serves to point them to the love and welcome that we have received as strangers, in Christ.
While this is true for every day and in every area of our lives, Sundays when we gather together as the church, we have an incredible opportunity to practice this truth of the gospel. Every Sunday, there are gathered with us, strangers - some are strangers to New City, others are strangers to the Kingdom of God. Each week as we say those words, “Let us welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us,” we have the incredible opportunity to practice the gospel, to show the strangers in our midst the welcome of the Father – his heart for the sojourner, his love and care for those who are not a part of His family.
New City, Let us welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us.