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To Welcome- All

“Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me.” Matthew 10:40

When you are down and troubled and you need a helping hand….the lyrics from James Taylor’s song “You’ve Got a Friend” are running through my mind as I write this morning.

There have been times during these 100 plus days of pandemic and my rising awareness of the deep extent of my limitations, fears, fragility, powerlessness and discomfort that my faith muscle has been shaking. Remembering that Jesus did not promise it would be in any way easy to follow, I have also been reminded we do not go alone. We.

The translation of this week’s gospel reading of Matthew 10:40-42 in the Message spoke a powerful word into my current condition.

Here is Matthew 10:40-42 from The Message (MSG)

We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.”

This is a large work we have been called into. And "it's best to start small". These words come as balm to my soul this morning and once again allow the words of Jesus to walk with me and speak to my condition. Our gospel reading for this week has also brought to mind The Welcoming Prayer by Father Thomas Keating

Welcome, welcome, welcome.

I welcome everything that comes to me today because I know it's for my healing.

I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations, and conditions.

I let go of my desire for power and control.

I let go of my desire for affection, esteem, approval and pleasure.

I let go of my desire for survival and security.

I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person or myself.

I open to the love and presence of God and God's action within. Amen.

Welcoming and letting go are connected.

This prayer is linked for me with the Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can

and the wisdom to know the difference.

Prayer as breath. Prayer as resilience. Prayer as a way to be open to God speaking to "our condition". We also have confession. Confession speaks to "our condition" the ways we know we fail, fall short, are in need of God's grace and forgiveness.

Confession is part of our weekly worship. It can be easy to just read and repeat the words. For several weeks now, this has been what we use for our Confession:

We confess that we do not trust your abundance, and we deny your presence in our lives. We place our hope in ourselves and rely on our own efforts.

We fail to believe that you provide enough for all.

We abuse your good creation for our own benefit.

We fear difference and do not welcome others as you have welcomed us.

We sin in thought, word, and deed.

By your grace, forgive us; through your love, renew us; and in your Spirit, lead us; so that we may live and serve you in newness of life. Amen.

This speaks to my condition, for sure. So as I write these words here -I remember it is followed by words of the grace of God that speaks to our brokenness- following our confession we hear these words spoken into our condition.

Beloved of God,

by the radical abundance of divine mercy we have peace with God through Christ Jesus, through whom we have obtained grace upon grace.

Our sins are forgiven .Let us live now in hope.

For hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Amen

The book Guerrillas of Grace; Prayers for the Battle by Ted Loder contains prayers that have put into words “my condition”. The prayers have also spoken to me of God's amazing grace. The prayers have been a welcome friend in these trying times. Here is part of a poem by Ted Loder entitled “I Need to Breathe Deeply” .

Eternal Friend,

grant me an ease to breathe deeply of this moment,

this light,

this miracle of now.

Beneath the din and fury of great movements and harsh news and urgent crises,

make me attentive still to good news,

to small occasions,

and the grace of what is possible for me to be,

to do,

to give,

to receive,

that I may miss neither my neighbor's gift nor my enemy's need.

It speaks to my condition. To welcome the ease of a breath that trusts God. When we prepare each week for worship - there has always been a lot that goes into it and in these new times it has been so much more. Knowing that worship at the heart and center of our faith community— it has been so very challenging. My illusions of self-sufficiency and ability to change on my own has often left me short of breath.

As worship has changed form, style, location- the struggles of technology, accessibility, security are overwhelming. To both acknowledge this and let it go- I welcome that today. As I surrender making it my work and I am then free to welcome the limitations, fears, fragility, powerlessness and discomfort. To welcome the learning and let go of the control will be a life long practice and I can do that just one day and often just one breath at a time.

Today to welcome all of it. For me a big part of “welcoming” is letting go. This is the welcome which needs lots of deep breaths. Today- I welcome and let the words of Jesus, the Welcome Prayer, and Ted Loder’s poetry- “speak to my condition”. I hear the call to be “attentive still to the good news, to small occasions and the grace of what is possible for me to be, to do, to give, to receive”. I am reminded that I have a Friend in Jesus, the power of the Spirit, and lots of friends who pray for me, walk alongside me, encourage me.

Today I hear "it's best to start small". I am reminded to welcome all and welcome all of it. Today I welcome letting go of the burdens I carry. Today I welcome awareness that I slip into overwhelm when I make it about me and what I can or cannot do. Today my “instead” is to choose the “we” of welcome and the “we” of God with us.

The Spirit is working. Today I trust God and the “us” in Trust. Welcoming the us of community learning together to welcome and receive in these unprecedented times. Welcoming the us and we together guided and directed by the power of the Spirit.

Today I choose the welcome instead of the resistance. Today I choose the following and trusting instead of the being burdened. Today instead of merely traipsing through these “unprecedented” times I am allowing for the leaping for joy. Today I know I will both welcome and resist. Today I will see both progress and room for improvement. Today I will breath in as a practice of trusting the constant and consistent Presence of Christ.

Today I try something new -again. Today I know there is confession and there is forgiveness. Today I remember there is an "us" in trust and I don't need to do any of this alone- I've got a Friend and so do you. Today I breathe deeply and welcome all of it.

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