During Lent we should recall the challenge of Jesus to welcome and pay attention to the stranger. This was at the heart of Jesus’ ministry because it is at the heart of God’s relationship to creation.
The stranger represents the one different to us. The Pharisees sought to establish a Jewish comfort zone beyond which strangers were kept. Rhetorically it was about equating God’s hospitable space with a carefully delineated expression of the Torah. Jesus welcomed the latter into God’s hospitable space, regarding God’s reign as the intended implication of the Torah. This was to be a reign which, by reflecting the character of God, necessarily included invitations to those beyond the pale.
Ministry is about going out and welcoming the stranger and not seeking to require that the stranger become one of us in advance or necessarily at all. As someone once said to me, it is about hosting, hearing and hallowing.