EVANS MILLS — In the midst of our chaotic and often volatile political world, both on the home front and abroad, I sense there is a great need like we’ve never previously known for the gift of hospitality.
Think about that word for a moment. How does one define hospitality? A dictionary may define it as “creating a friendly and generous atmosphere toward others.”
Consider the moments in your life when you received another’s act of hospitality. Did not that experience leave a positive impact on your life?
Let’s now apply that word to the political and economic scene in our nation today. One of the critical issues our country is dealing with is the refugee or immigration crisis.
Is our nation handling that crisis correctly? Or, perhaps, the question can be posed this way: Is it handling this crisis in a loving and caring manner?
While reflecting on that question, I thought about the words of Emma Lazarus, a Jewish woman (whose descendants were some of the first Jewish settlers in America), taken from a sonnet or poem she had written which reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” These words can be found on a plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.
I believe these words mirrored the thinking of our founding fathers, and this concept led to the creation of our U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. In my mind, these words speak of extended hospitality.
A political rally cry has been “Make America Great Again.” This slogan should cause us to reflect on defining greatness.
A nation’s greatness should be measured not simply in terms of military, economic and political power or influence. Rather, it should be measured in a nation’s measure of hospitality extended to others. Hospitality reveals the heart of a person as well as a nation.
Let me share some words from the Scriptures, in particular, from the Gospel of Matthew in which Jesus is offering a definition of greatness to his disciples to help them gain new perspective:
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave …” (Matthew 20:26-27)
What if hospitality centers were established in every state of our United States where the atmosphere of welcome was established? For most of the thousands of refugees who have flooded over the borders of Texas and California are seeking to “breathe free.”
What if an abundance of necessary supplies and resources to meet critical needs were available at each hospitality center? This is possible, and other security matters could still be handled.
Having said this, always be ready to offer hospitality when the opportunity rises to those in need whom you may encounter. That action will reveal where your heart lies!
Finally, let me leave you with two additional Scripture references to consider:
“Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (I Peter 4:9-10)
“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing, some have unwittingly entertained angels.” (Hebrews 13:2)
The Rev. Steve Nagler of Evans Mills is a chaplain at Cape Vincent Correctional Facility. An ordained minister with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, he previously served as a chaplain in U.S. Army from 1985 to 2005.