Today’s Exodus reading is a stern reminder to a world grappling with immigration law, the plight of refugees, the challenges of diversity, and paralysis of government when it comes to moving beyond mere law enforcement to legislating justice. The obvious question is, who are the aliens? (or the alienated.) And then: “Remember when you were aliens.” Here is yet another exhortation to see the world and humanity as the One who created them does. Though borders are often delineated by geography, such as rivers or mountains, they are still human inventions, accidents of history, which may not respect the reality of what’s on the ground. Remember Robert Frost’s poem. “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know/ What I was walling in or walling out,/ And to whom I was like to give offense./ Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,/ That wants it down.” Presumably walls will have to fall as we learn to love our neighbor as ourselves, and by that means to love God with our all-in-all.
The Thessalonians’ vibrant faith was to move Christianity beyond its borders to neighboring Mediterranean peoples. The gospel’s offer of life to the full (John 10:10) on this Respect Life Sunday is expressed in the hymn “Abundant Life,” with text by Ruth Duck, a prominent contemporary hymnist. Her text echoes the Exodus warnings about the plight of aliens, widows, orphans, and the poor. These same concerns are found in “The Cry of the Poor,” which is a setting of Psalm 34. The gospel call to love of God and neighbor is carried out in two hymns from Iona Abbey, “I’ll Love the Lord” (in dialogue form) and “The Love of God Comes Close,” a call to move beyond walls and barriers to reach those who are alienated. At 10:00 the choir will sing “Shelter,” recorded by the praise band Jars of Clay, with its chant, “In the shelter of each other, we will live, we will live.” The 11:30 choir will sing Dave Brubeck’s setting of today’s Psalm 18, “All My Hope.”