Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The stranger in our midst

Why is it always when I'm in charge at Zac's that the - pause while I think of a suitably pc term - unusual character turns up? And it was all going so well too.

It was a warm sticky evening and the room was full. We were looking at the story of the Good Samaritan, the latest in the series of Difficult Things Jesus Said - being love your neighbour. We were enjoying a good discussion without any real arguments and, as I say, it was all going so well. 

Then our visitor arrived. Not so much arrived as swept in on a hurricane with all the resulting chaos, and before we knew it we'd not so much lost the thread of the story as lost the whole book. 

She was full of questions: which God? Where is he? What about the babies that die? And the nuns who beat me and forced me to go to church? And probably lots of more that I've forgotten with my brain on overload. Now if you want to ask questions, Zac's is the place to come. But if you don't want to listen to the answers there's not a lot we can do.

Each time I or one of the others attempted to answer her question she'd start again on another track, and then everyone would join in the general free for all. And then Rowland stood up. Rowland is a very quietly spoken and wise older gentleman. He didn't address any of her questions directly but spoke about the Samaritan and the bit of Samaritan and kindness in each of us. And our new visitor was completely quiet all the time he was talking. 

I thanked Rowland and began to say something - and she was off again! I glanced at my watch. It was 9 o'clock. I could draw the study to a close. I'd found a poem by Adrian Plass during my research and it seemed appropriate for the whole following Jesus theme so I said I'd read it even though I didn't think i had much chance of getting through it uninterrupted. But then I found on the same piece of paper another quote I'd discovered and read that first. I thought it was on this blog but now I can't find the original post on there!

The Adrian Plass poem is quite long and you can find it here. It's both entertaining and thought-provoking, and, amazingly there was quiet when I read it. But it turned out to be the first quote that was so surprisingly apt for the evening as I realised as the words came out.

Welcoming the stranger puts oneself and one’s community at risk. At best, the stranger is disruptive, bringing strange ideas and new, even wrong, ways of doing things. At worst, the stranger is dangerous, bringing disease, dishonor or violence. Welcoming the stranger is risky: everyone will be changed, host and guest alike…. And we cannot know ahead of time what the changes will be.

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