Shaped by Strangers

By Randy Myers, Pastor, Blue Mound United Methodist Church

I’ve written before that my life has been shaped by strangers. Throughout my life, I have been indebted to those, who are unlike myself, for any of the spiritual, moral, and even physical formation I have received over what will soon be fifty-five years. They have, every one of them, been in some way a gift.

My grandfather and great grandfather worked at A.E. Staley in Decatur, IL. Being who they were in the time that they lived in, their lives were occupied by interactions with a variety of people who moved on the factory floor. They worked along those of many races, different languages, and even different personal lives. Their personal knowledge of personal people made any stereotyping out of bounds.

My parents were medical professionals. From the time, I could remember they put me in contact with all sorts of people: German and Filipino nuns, African American nurses, Native Americans, Chinese immigrants, and Latino Americans. My father’s career in the Indian Health Service (lJSPHS) even acquainted me with the son of a woman who had survived the camps of the Shoah (the Holocaust).

Then there has been my own work in the ministry. As a young, idealistic inner city minister I had the privilege of being mentored by two Roman Catholic priests and welcomed by veterans (little old ladies) of the Civil Rights Movement. I stumbled into serving a community of the Choctaw Nation in Nashville, TN, bowled with third generation Japanese Americans in church league, and served as a kind of chaplain to the HIV/AIDS I community in Scottsbluff, NE. I have had the chance to pray with Muslims and hosted a Jewish cantor for a community baccalaureate service. I could go on about the hospitality I have received from all sorts of strangers, each one bringing a unique gift with their lives. I only share these with you out of deep gratitude.

You see, in each of these strangers has come the presence of another Stranger, the ultimate Stranger I call God, specifically Christ. Christ comes not as one of my own kind. Jesus was very different. He was dark-skinned and spoke another language. He walked everywhere he went. He ate, at times, with “unclean hands.” And he is the Stranger who comes in every stranger, in order that we might all become strangers in the world. We become strangers in this world so that we might find a home with God. Faith makes us forever pilgrims. God’s holiness makes us all immigrants.

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