‘Whoever receives you receives me’

Last weekend, in the city where I live, two recent graduates from our local high school organized a rally to discuss right to life issues. They weren’t talking about abortion, however, as one might assume, but rather about the right-to-life that is so often denied to the “little ones” who don’t look like most of the people who live here. And the question of who determines if one is “righteous” or not and on how they make that determination was discussed.

Because of the current pandemic, and fear for my own life, I didn’t attend that rally. I am sorry that I didn’t.

The city where I live is surrounded by beauty. A chain of lakes and crisscrossing rivers offer opportunities for water skiing and speedboat racing, canoeing, kayaking, fishing or just drifting downriver on an inner tube, and an abundance of bed and breakfasts to accommodate the people who come for these activities. This week’s readings remind me of all those hosts and hostesses who provide hospitality and a welcome smile to summer visitors in our area. Recent events remind me of all the people who might not feel welcome on our lakes or in our inns. And everyone knows that people of color aren’t interested in such things anyway, right? Perhaps that’s why speakers who understand what it means to be denied the right to life as many of us understand it had to be invited from elsewhere to speak at that rally.

“One day Elisha came to Shunem, where there was a woman of influence, who urged him to dine with her.” Because she recognized Elisha as a holy man of God, the woman urged her husband to “arrange a little room” for him and to “furnish it with a bed, table, chair and lamp.” Any one of us would do the same if a stranger appeared at our door, wouldn’t we?

“Whoever receives you receives me.” Who is it that we deny when we close our doors to people of color? Why can it be so difficult to recognize the divine in people who might not look like us?

Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.