Welcome. We advertise welcome into our homeland places of business. It is something we look for, long for. We wish to be welcomed in. Into a community, into a family, into a church, into groups at school, welcome is something we search for all of our lives. When we don’t feel welcome we don’t usually go back to a place. Whether it is a restaurant, a church, or a group welcome forms who we hang out with.
There is a story on the preachers as scholars site given by Bishop Michael Curry about a couple who were dating in the south in the 1940’s, they were African American. The boyfriend who was a licensed preacher in the Baptist tradition and decided to go to church with his girlfriend. When it came time for the communion he stayed in his seat, because back then you didn’t take communion in one another’s churches, and he watched carefully. Why? Because he wanted to see what would happen when the cup came to his girlfriend.
In the segregated south where you couldn’t even take a drink from the same fountain he was curious as to what would happen when that cup came to this black woman. The priest came down the line saying “the blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ given for thee, preserve thy body and soul into everlasting life. Drink this in remembrance that Christ’s blood was shed for thee.” When he came to the woman he continued in the normal way giving the cup and saying the words, to the only black woman in the congregation. When the man observed this he wanted to be a part of that church because any church where black and white would share from the same cup has learned something that he wanted to be a part of and what the world needs to learn about.
This is a beautiful story of welcome. Welcoming a child of God. We all have opportunities to extend that welcome. Jesus is speaking of that in Matthew today. It is a word which in the Greek only means a part of welcome, receive, accept, and embrace are other definitions of this word. The embracing is echoed in our Old Testament reading as Abraham says three times “here I am”, which in Hebrew the word hineni actually means here I am do what you will with me. Abraham fully embraces God’s call, his sons call, the angels call. Abraham is willing to receive and give from God.
If we truly believe in welcome it is a giving and receiving of Christ. It means there are times when we receive a tap on the shoulder from God and we have to pay attention to what is going on around us. Because God does still speak. It is in fully opening ourselves to giving and receiving from God where we recognize we have received Christ and that is a true reward. So open yourself fully to the possibility and you may receive more than you know.