Summary: Well whose to judge, to slander those lost in sin, those who don't know the Father. How do we treat the alien and the widow? Slapping them up the side of the head will not win souls for the kingdom of God.
The paradox that we are looking at this week of our OWSOMS Self Denial appeal that we are looking at is this ‘The Paradox of Belonging’. In the passage from Deuteronomy 24:17 through to verse 22 we get this command “Do not deprive the alien or the Fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of a widow as a pledge.” Followed with the reason, “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this.”
Belonging to a place is an interesting thing, how long does it take, do you have to be welcomed to belong, do people just fit in because they have been coming for quite some time, do they need to sign up to be accepted, what is acceptance?
Interesting things come out of the Old Testament in regards to foreigners, but this passage directing that they be cared for and in the following verses the Israelites are instructed to leave behind anything that is not taken in the first harvest “for the alien [foreigners not little green men]the fatherless and the widow.” In other words for those who are disenfranchised, the marginalised, those who don’t speak the language and hold not currency. In other words what we would call today the bods on the fringe of society.
There is a painting called, The Gleaners (Des glaneuses) [PP] is an oil painting by Jean-François Millet completed in 1857. It depicts three peasant women gleaning a field of stray grains of wheat after the harvest, apparently when it was painted it was not well received by the people of French middle and upper classes society as it portrayed those who were without.
So what for us today?
Well we have this awesome ability next week to give a week’s salary on missionary service. I really liked the way that the Salvation Army Captain in Russia last week mentioned how in his sphere of ministry to men on the margins of society that 6 out of 10 are being reached and supported because of funding supplied by the OWSOMS appeal, and that the same percentage 6 out of 10 were coming to Christ, are meeting with their saviour because of funding from the OWSOMS appeal.
This is good news, this is kingdom of God stuff. A little bit of heaven coming to earth as people engage with God through the generous sacrificial giving of others.
But what for us in our day to day walk here in Dunedin; could we think about it this way, the Moffatt Paraphrase of verse 17; ‘Show the grace that God has shown to you to those who don’t know God yet. You know those people on the fringes of society, the angry person, the addict, the person who lives a shady life, that lonely business person who appears to have it all, that kid in your class who no one likes, the bully at work, the religious and or the racial bigot, the person so wrapped in their self that they don’t see the need for the trees. These are people and there are many others who are being robbed of who they could be, defined by something outside of God’s desire for them. People who don’t know our Heavenly Father…they are the Fatherless! Treat them with respect, don’t criticise them, and don’t condemn them. Remember you were once caught up in the same slavery to sin that they are. The Lord redeemed you from there. It was Jesus who showed you the way to the Father, it is Jesus who saved you, it is through him that you came into the kingdom of God.
God commands us to treat these people, all people with respect and to see that they too find the justice, the forgiveness and grace that come from knowing Jesus.’
The kingdom of God is a place to which all may belong, finding the Father through the Son, reach out, extend God’s grace, for you too were slaves in Egypt!