Everyone Is Welcome
This summer, Nelson and I made the decision to buy our first home together, after many years of renting. We are excited about moving into our new place in Framingham, and meeting our new neighbors, and getting to know the community in Elena’s new school as well. It has been a busy time, and one filled with all kinds of questions and some worries too. All this “newness” also brings with it some trepidation, as any big transition does. Will she like her school? Will we fit in? Will we find a warm welcome for our neighbors?
It has gotten me thinking a lot about the idea of “welcome,” of hospitality. It is something that was important to Jesus, as he often talked about widening the circle of welcome. Rules of etiquette and social hierarchy dictated who was “in” and who was “out” of social circles in Jesus’ day – and it might not be that different now! Table fellowship was shared with those of similar social status to oneself, with the expectation that you would be invited in kind. It was a mutually beneficial system, reinforcing who held the status, wealth and power, and who was kept out. But Jesus said, “When you give a banquet or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14)
As a church community, how do we widen the circle of welcome, as Jesus urges us to do? How can we be both a place of welcome for people to come, and people of welcome, who bring that spirit of inclusion into the places around us? One opportunity for us as a church family is in reaching out to new members of our surrounding communities. I have been particularly drawn to the needs of new refugee families being resettled in the Lowell area. In early September, the International Institute of New England expects to receive about 13 families, which is about 30% of their annual caseload. The IINE is in need of material supplies for furnishing new apartments, and volunteers to help the families feel comfortable in their new homes. There is an article in the newsletter detailing ways we can respond to the needs of these families.
We have a global community right here in our small church. On World Communion Sunday, October 2nd, I would love to celebrate our global heritage by representing our various and diverse cultures in worship. If you would like to participate by bringing a type of bread that is important to your culture; bringing a cloth for the communion table; wearing clothing that represents your heritage; or sharing some music with us, please let me know by September 25th. And let us seek to be a place where everyone is welcome, and everyone is included – for that is how the Kingdom of God is!
In God’s Love,