Unafraid to Welcome
Risky business. When Jesus places a child in the midst of his disciples and says, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” Mark 9:37 Jesus is breaking the rules. Children aren't of value and they certainly aren't welcome.
Jesus is getting the attention of his disciples (who have been arguing about who among them is the greatest) by once again not behaving in a way expected. Welcoming a child, it's along the same lines as Touching a leper, using his own spit to heal a blind man, allowing himself to be in a crowd where a hemorrhaging women could touch him and then proclaiming her faith has made her well. This sort of welcome is risky business.
Welcome, Welcome, Welcome. The power of the welcome of Jesus is not a welcome of words only- it is a welcome that accompanies actions that change and transform the landscape of what is acceptable for a teacher, a Rabbi, the Anointed One.... This kind of welcome will lead those around Jesus to call for his execution. Welcoming can be very risky business.
The bold welcome statement of our sister ELCA congregation, All Saint's Lutheran, just up the road makes clear their desire to welcome in the manner of Jesus- it's risky business.
These are the words of welcome on the home page of All Saint's Lutheran church
"We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, black and proud, y no habla Ingles.
We extend a special welcome to those who are new-borns, poor as dirt, skinny as a rail, got a hitch in their git-along, or just plain can’t sing. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing,” just woke up, or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Lutheran than Luther, or more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Maria’s confirmation.
We extend a special welcome to those who are over 40 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters, and people who stay up too late at night. If you’re having problems, or you’re down in the dumps, or you don’t like “organized religion,” we’ve been there too. If you blew all your offering money at Black Hawk, you’re welcome here.
We offer a special welcome to those who could lose a few pounds, think the earth is flat, work too hard, can’t spell, or came because grandma’s in town and wanted to go to church. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, are three-times divorced, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid, or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers, doubters, bleeding hearts … and you!
Can you see yourself or a part of yourself in this invitation? I can. So I pause and take a breath and let it in that the welcome of Jesus to a little child is the welcome to me, to you, to all of us. We get to both let in that welcome and then extend it. This copy of the Welcoming Prayer has been in my files for several years yet it wasn't until last year that I really spent time working intentionally on using it.
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.
The short version of the prayer is, "I let go of my desire for security, affection and control and embrace this moment as it is." Way easier said -than done. And over time as I keep pausing and saying it- that doing of it- the welcoming life as it is and letting myself be open to it- is gaining some traction.
To let go of the desires is helped by practicing (imperfectly and accepting that imperfection) the "what to do's" that we hear this week in James; get along with others, treat each other with dignity and honor, let God work God's will in you, yell a loud no to the Devil, say a quiet yes to God , quit dabbling in sin, pay attention to your inner life, quit playing the field, hit bottom, and cry your eyes out.
As we continue our walk with the Letter of James (this Sunday James3:13-4:10 ) together we can explore these words about living well and living wisely. Here is one thing that I want for us to work on together-welcoming life. Living life on life's terms, welcoming it as it comes so that we live with assurance, confidence, trust and boldness in God. We get to draw upon God's power and God's presence to guide us and enable us to do all of this. Today I extend this invitation to you: let go of the unhelpful fear that is the rooted in our desires for security, affection, and control. Instead welcome, welcome, welcome all that is--- trusting that in all that is - God is there as well.
Welcome God's love.
Welcome God's presence.
Welcome God within you, in all times and in all places.