“Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”
(Deut. 10:19 (ESV))
RAGBRAI (click here for more information) is coming to Cherokee, IA this weekend. There is an excitement building in our small community as we await the arrival of between 20,000 and 25,000 people (about 10,000 registered riders, many unregistered, plus support personnel and others), 5 times the normal population of our quiet little town. The town is rallying together, coming just off the heels of a wonderful county fair, to welcome, feed, entertain, and shelter this massive assembly of humanity.
We here at Memorial Presbyterian Church are doing our part. There will be a great chicken dinner for the riders, worship services at 3, 4, 5, and 6 pm, and up to 40 riders sleeping overnight in the church – but maybe most importantly, the Air Conditioning will be on and everyone is welcome to come in and cool down.
While I am going to be incredibly busy on Sunday, part of me would like to sit back and just watch what it looks like for 20,000 people to pour into a small town like this. It will be a steady stream, or wave at times, that never seems to end. I pray we’re ready.
But if you stop to think about it, this parade of bikers across Iowa is insignificant in proportion to the mass of humanity that crossed the Red Sea and traveled through the wilderness for 40 years. Exodus tells us that there were “600,000 adult men on foot, besides women and children” (Ex 12:37). Now if you figure the adult men were between the ages of 13 and 50, and there were older and younger men, then the wives, single women, and the average 2.5 children to add to the count, you could easily come up with 3 to 4 million people. This is how Israel started out; a wandering multitude of mankind, without a home, without a map, without food and water and protection – but they were God’s people. He would give them a land, give them a home, provide for their nourishment along the way. He would be their shield and their defender. He is the mighty One, strong to save.
Like the Israelites, as Christians we too had our wilderness experience. We were slaves to sin, in bondage to the way of the world, the deception of the flesh – which promises peace and success but brings only pain and destruction. But God sought us out when we were not a people, when we were lost in our sin, and he called us his own. In Christ Jesus our Lord he welcomed us, fed and nourished us, and promised a home for those who come to Him through Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life. He is our mighty One, strong to save.
So then, as we were at one time weary travelers, rescued by our loving savior, should we not love the sojourners as they ride through our town? Is that not what the passage from Deuteronomy teaches? We were all sojourners, so we have something in common with these riders. We know what’s it’s like to be in need and to have those needs met in abundance. We know what it’s like to be alone and find welcome and friendship.
So this weekend, welcome the weary travelers. Share the same grace, hospitality, and kindness that you were given in Christ. I am overjoyed at the members of my congregation who have volunteered to help with the activities here at the Church on Sunday, as well as all of those who have opened their homes for the riders. What a testament of grace and mercy.
But do not forget to also share the gracious message of salvation in Jesus Christ. The opportunity to do acts of kindness and service open the door for sharing the gospel. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, when asked why the people in Cherokee are so wonderful, we could respond saying, “Because we know a wonderful Savior!”
This week, whether you are helping at the church, hosting in your house, or just observing the mayhem that surrounds this thing called RAGBRAI, love the sojourner, for you were once a sojourner too.
Grace and peace,