Welcoming the stranger

giving love your neighbor

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One Saturday evening recently Vicar Dillon Epler led the service and gave his message based on the story of Jesus healing the 10 lepers.

            Dillon focused on Christ’s welcoming and healing in the story and then began to talk about ministries at Zion that do both.

            “How is Zion Lutheran Church healing people?” he asked. “How is this church welcoming the stranger into its midst?”

            He talked about Diaper Depot, the ministry that has given out over 100,000 free diapers to Tamaqua area families.

            “The diaper ministry is one of your ministries that welcomes people,” he said. “You don’t ask who they are; you don’t ask how much they make; you don’t ask what their race is; you don’t ask what their religion is; you don’t ask anything about them but only if they live in the area and are they in need.

            “And I have no doubt that those people who come through that door feel welcomed. They are the stranger, the foreigner in your midst. And you are serving them as they are blessing you.”

            Dillon reminded us that as Lutherans we stand firm on grace, and that grace is an unearned gift. 

“None of us can earn that grace,” he said. “And so you provide grace for someone in need of diapers and baby wipes who has a little baby – a blessing, a blessing. That is not only welcoming the stranger, that is healing to that family, to that mother, to that child.

“I want you to remember that. What you are doing with that diaper depot is welcoming the stranger and the foreigner in your midst and it’s healing them in so many ways.”

Dillon then described the Blessing Thrift Shop as another ministry where people are welcomed and healed.

“You welcome the stranger. You never know who is going to come through that door,” he said. “How is seeing something at such a low cost that can help that person and maybe help their family, how healing is that to them. Not only are you welcoming them, you are healing them.

“Tonight, Jesus calls you and me to open our hearts to people who are longing for healing. Maybe it’s diapers. Maybe it’s something in the thrift shop. They are looking for the love of Jesus which is here in this place, I have no doubt.”

In closing, Dillon urged us to remember the story of the 10 lepers and its message.

“As you welcome the stranger and the foreigner in to your midst, you heal people day in and day out,” he said. “Always keep your doors open to see what God gives you.”