“What does it Look Like to Welcome All Children, All People in Jesus’s Name?”

Everywhere I turn these days Jesus’s call to radical welcome for all people hits me in the face. There is no escape; so, I suspect the Holy Spirit is at work. I invite us to live and to ponder what it looks like to welcome all people in Jesus’s name.
Yesterday evening, June 12, Christ Church hosted the interfaith People of Blessing service for PRIDE month. It was the 22nd year for this service in Binghamton, a service to celebrate the LGBTQ members of our community, to affirm the message of love in all faiths, and to inspire a life of justice and welcome.
The personal stories broke my heart wide open as people described deep hurt caused by ridicule, exclusion and worse by Church, even by our very own Christ Church. Yet in response to this pain each speaker committed to living a path of unconditional love. Amen.   
I am convinced to the core to stand up for radical welcome.
No surprise then that my daily meditation from Red Letter Christians urged welcome.

From Elrena Evans:
  “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'” -Matthew 19:14

Pause and take note of what Jesus says: “Let the little children come to me.” Now, note what Jesus does not say. Jesus gives no qualifiers to his invitation. He doesn’t say, “the typically-developing children,” or “the well-behaved children,” or “the children who can maintain socially acceptable behavior and make eye contact.” All Jesus says is, “…come to me.”
I am convinced to the core to stand up for radical welcome.
With every blessing and all welcome, 
Mother Elizabeth 

Overarching Welcome

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.  Hebrews 13:2

For most Christ Church is a place of welcome.  For me, at Christ Church, I imagine God’s Kingdom, envisioning a long line of people rejoicing and headed to heaven as in Flannery O’Connor’s story “Revelation.”   I see a beautiful vision when I stand to lead worship and to preach.  I sense the spirit of Christ. 

Many share this vision, and for many a great willingness to welcome all. Still, overarching welcome remains a goal and not quite an achievement.  Offering hospitality as Jesus commands us to do means welcome to any one not like us in age, gender, race, class, sexual preference, economic level or health (mental or physical). This is a challenge.  While humans are wired for connection, we are also wired to make distinctions and exclude.  Connection happens best when we are prepared to get to know one another.  In learning more about the other, we discover common humanity, some shared interests and concerns even if we do not respond to these matters in the same way. 

Turns out Sharing Christ’s Welcoming Love, which is both our mission and our motto is not as easy as it sounds or looks.   It requires commitment, open minds and open hearts, and a willingness to talk about our discomfort, speaking our own truth in love. We cannot find the hospitality path until we see and speak our own concerns and hear those of others. 

As with the protagonist in O’Connor’s short story, we may come to see others and ourselves in a different light when we know them as fellow followers of Christ.  We then may not be quite as sure we are meant to be at the front of the heaven line.  We may be grateful to God for making the line toward heaven long and inclusive.  Otherwise, we may not be in line at all. 

I see the best of Christ Church’s welcome now, and the best we shall become.   To continue to grow spiritually and in Christ’s love shall require more conversations about what we value and love about this place and what we love about Jesus Christ for whom we are named.  

During formal and informal settings, let’s listen to one another.   Let’s encourage one another because a willingness to follow Jesus and His path of transforming love can be scary and threatening even as it leads to peace and deep joy.   May we walk this path together.