Growing up my best friend, Billy, was one of seven children in a blended family. He was the oldest of the children. Going over to Billy’s home was an adventure in creative logistics. Not only were there seven children, there was always a cousin who was going through a tough time at home and needed a “safe space” to sort things out or a space to land while trying to launch out into the world on their own. The mix of the household would later come to include “GranMa Klix” (She was the mother to 8 children of her own, so a large noisy gathering was nothing new for her.)
Mealtime at Billy’s Home was always interesting; not only did you have the 10 “regulars”, it was not uncommon for each of the children to have invited at least one friend over for dinner. Sometimes there would be as many as 30 people gathered around the table sharing the meal that had been prepared. To my knowledge there was never a time when anyone was turned away or went away hungry. I was and am still in awe of the amazing demonstration of radical Welcome and Hospitality extended to ALL who entered their Home. What kind of Hospitality and radical Welcome did Jesus speak about? What did Jesus intend to convey when he shared this parable?
Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. 17 At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’ 19 Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’ 20 Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ 22 And the slave said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’ 23 Then the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.’ LUKE 14:16-24 NRSV
What does it truly mean to have Open hearts, Open minds Open doors? Are ALL Welcome? What would a Community of Faith look like that truly practiced radical Hospitality and Welcomed ALL? What would their “Welcome Statement convey?
I believe it might look something like this - Our hearts, minds, and doors are always open to All persons. We believe All persons are individuals of sacred worth. We affirm Jesus’ example of love without reservation and we covenant to deal Then Jesussaid to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. 17 At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’ 19 Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’ 20 Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ 22 And the slave said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’ 23 Then the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.’ LUKE 14:16-24 NRSV compassionately and justly with one another. We openly welcome all persons of any age, gender, ethnic origin, economic reality, family status, sexual orientation, diverse ability or social standing as full participants in the life and work of this community. We recognize that there are differences among us, but believe that we can love alike even though we may not think alike. We invite all people to join us in our faith journey toward greater love, understanding and mutual respect.
WOW – What if Rome First could “live into” becoming a Community of Faith that consistently moved closer to realizing greater love, understanding and mutual respect? I believe people would want to be a part of that – I know I want to be a part of it! What if we could make room for ALL at Rome First? Is there room for ALL? The Physical Space is something we can and are addressing even now. We are in the process of “creating new spaces for new faces.”
New Spaces – New Faces
Sunday, April 14 is the date for three special events in the life of Rome First. We will celebrate Membership Sunday when we welcome new faces into the Christian Community at Rome First.
Second, we will “officially open” the Charles Sennett Memorial Garden and Connector. A special ribbon cutting will be held on the Connector to “officially open” the connector for use by ALL. (See more about this event in this edition of the Herald.)
Third, we will hear from Tina Bartleson, Rome First Member and Executive Director of the Exchange Club Family Resource Center. Tina will share with us about the transformative work happening through the Family Resource Center. The Family Resource Center is a SERVE ROME Partner with their offices located on the third Floor of the SERVE ROME Building.
Because of your faithfulness and generosity and your willingness to “put into practice” the motto – Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors, the lives of individuals and families are being transformed and given hope.
We continue to “make room” for more folks to join the Christian Community at Rome First. When you see the new Charles Sennett Memorial Garden and Connector you will notice there are two doors into the Wilder Center. The first big door leads to and from the Elevator Lobby and the second door off to the side of the Connector opens into the “New” physical space designated for use by Youth on Sundays. It is a large multi-use room. The next space under construction to “make room” for new faces by creating new spaces is a large room on the second level of the Wilder Center and will be designated on Sundays as a Children’s Space. Making room for new faces and new friends is an exciting adventure.
What is the “mandate” for Welcome and Hospitality? Let’s look at Scripture to guide us… Our God is a welcoming God. He welcomes ALL into His family. While He lived on earth, Jesus always welcomed anyone into His presence or to wherever He was preaching at the time.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
This verse epitomizes God’s welcoming attitude. This reminder was written to the early church. It went against their culture to welcome people different from themselves (Greeks, slaves, etc.) – just like in today’s world, there are some people we might find it hard to welcome based on our cultural expectations. ALL should be welcomed.
“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” Matthew 5:46-48
This verse is about welcoming everyone, not just fellow Christians. It’s easy(?) to welcome those like us (other Christians), but what about those who are so different that they’re not even believers? Welcoming those who have nothing in common with us should be one of the distinguishing marks of Christians.
“When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.” Luke 9:11
If we are to follow Jesus’ example, then we should be as welcoming as He is here. Not only did He treat the crowds with kindness by welcoming them, He did something for them – He told them about the Kingdom and He healed them. Being welcoming is more than just saying hello – it’s finding ways to bless people.
“And thus you shall greet him: ‘Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have.” 1 Samuel 25:6
Peace – this is one of the simplest, easiest ways to ensure that you always have a welcoming attitude. Focus on peace – in your heart, your home, and in the words you say – and everyone around you will feel welcome.
If any verse serves as a reminder about Jesus’ welcoming nature, this one is it. Romans 15:7 Jesus died for us so that we could be welcomed, sinless and reborn, into the presence of God. Dare we exclude or ignore others, when Jesus sacrificed himself to make us welcome?
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” Matthew 25:35-36
This is probably one of the most well-known verses about welcoming others. It speaks specifically to those who might initially be hard to welcome – the poor, the sick, or anyone of whom we consider “different.” I hope you will join me in praying for God’s guidance as we consider how to be a radically inclusive, inviting, welcoming Community of Faith that seeks to Share the Love of God with ALL.
See you ALL in Worship, In Small Groups, and Serving in the Community!