Sunday Preview by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell – July 20
Who Are We to Welcome?
When we think of welcoming people in the church, we generally think of greeting people. Making sure we have some people to open the door, say hello, hand out bulletins, etc. Those people are important. They are the first faces someone sees coming into the church. But what happens next? This is where welcoming someone can be challenging. We want people to feel accepted and be active members of the church…but do we really welcome them? The act of welcoming someone into a community has a distinct power dynamic. It highlights who is “in” and who is “out.” The hard part of welcoming someone is being ready and willing to change. Welcoming someone new means knowing that the community is made better and more whole through diversity. Welcoming someone new also means that this person needs to be fully valued and carries the same weight as a longtime member. By welcoming people, we discover a new sense of wholeness. However, as we see in the passage below, the reward of true hospitality is bigger than just new members.
‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’ (Mt 10:40-42)
Jesus reminds us that when we welcome someone we are welcoming God. No matter the language, the culture, or the gender expression, welcoming the stranger means welcome God. This passage also reminds us that we need to be intentional with our welcome. Jesus names the specific groups of people and the ways his followers are called to respond to the need of hospitality for each of them. This is true of us today. How we welcome people needs to be intentional. Truly welcoming people is an act of justice. Welcoming people is a way of showing someone else you see them. It tells them you see God in them.
This week may we push our hospitality to be one of radical welcome. To see, embrace, and value the stranger as the person of God that they are. May we know that when we open our doors to the stranger we are welcoming God into our midst.
The Rev. Stephanie Kendell