A story is told about a soldier who was finally coming home after having fought in Vietnam. He called his parents from San Francisco.
“Mum and Dad, I’m coming home, but I have a favour to ask.
I have a friend I’d like to bring home with me.”
“Sure,” they replied, “We’d love to meet him.”
“There’s something you should know,” the son continued, “I am coming with a friend who was hurt pretty badly in the fighting. He stepped on a land mind and lost an arm and a leg. He has nowhere else to go, and I want him to come live with us.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, son. Maybe we can help him find somewhere to live.”
“No, Mum and Dad, I want him to live with us.”
“Son,” said the father, “you don’t know what you’re asking. Someone with such a handicap would be a terrible burden on us. We have our own lives to live, and we can’t let something like this interfere with our lives. I think you should just come home and forget about this guy. He’ll find a way to live on his own.”
At that point, the son hung up the phone. The parents heard nothing more from him. A few days later, however, they received a call from the San Francisco police. Their son had died after falling from a building, they were told. The police believed it was suicide. The grief-stricken parents flew to San Francisco and were taken to the city morgue to identify the body of their son. They recognised him, but to their horror they also discovered something they didn’t know, their son had only one arm and one leg.
The parents in this story are like many of us. We find it easy to love those who are good-looking or fun to have around, but we don’t like people who inconvenience us or make us feel uncomfortable. There’s a part of us that says we would rather stay away from people who aren’t like us.
God calls us to be God’s welcoming community. Can we welcome people who are different from us? And not just that, can we welcome them with open arms, and celebrate who they are? This means being able to accept them as they are and to affirm whom they are, just as they are. This does not mean giving up something of ourselves. When we move toward welcoming others without losing our own identity, we will find God working in our midst to create something new as we develop a relationship of love. The cluster of parables this week in Luke 15 discloses the God of love who embraces and welcomes the lost and the wanderers physically and spiritually, then celebrates as a community with great joy.
Rev Samata Elia