Stranger at the Table
“Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” – Luke 17:18-19 (NRSV)
For many families there is a tradition of inviting to their Thanksgiving table a guest, who may be a stranger or a person at some other variety of “at loose ends.” A new immigrant, a service member who is away from home, a student from another country.
I imagine that we understand this as a practice of hospitality, which it certainly is. We do something that is a remembrance of the foreigner, the alien or the less fortunate, all of whom are close to God’s heart.
But Luke’s story of the ten lepers healed by Jesus suggests another possible intuition driving this act of inclusion.
Sometimes the outsiders understand stuff that the insiders don’t. Sometimes they recognize the beauty of a family or meal shared that we take for granted.
So it was in the case of the ten who were healed of their terrible skin disease. Nine were Israelites, insiders. One was an outsider, a Samaritan. Not just a foreigner, but a foreigner who was looked down upon.
But in Luke’s story, this foreigner is the only one who gets it. He is the only one who returns to Jesus to say thanks, to offer thanks and praise to God.
At least sometimes, strangers and outsiders seem to notice, more acutely than insiders, the grace and beauty of such occasions. What we may take for granted, they view as dazzling gift.
Whether you have such a guest at your table or not, may you and all those gathered with you know the difference between being healed and being saved, between being fed and being blessed.
Bless us, Holy One, not by the gift of your already presence but by whatever it takes to awaken us to your presence, to the miracle that is. Amen.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. His newest book, Useful Wisdom: Letter to Young (and Not So Young) Ministers will be published early next year by Wipf and Stock. You can read and sign up for his blog at www.anthonybrobinson.com.