PJ’s Page –
“The joy and terror of
is that we are
called upon to
These words were spoken at our daughter’s commencement ceremony at Seattle University. They captured my attention right away, for they are also at the heart of Jesus’ teachings. I’ve been considering Sherman Alexie’s words and how they compel us to live as Jesus’ disciples in the world, and in our community.
To love the stranger means we welcome them.
We welcome them with genuine warmth.
We welcome them with respectful curiosity.
We welcome them as they are, not so they will become like us.
We welcome them with the love of Christ.
This is truly the heart of what it means to be community….welcome, come to know, exist together, and love. It also means having a deep and abiding respect for the dignity of every person.
At one time or another we have been the stranger. We have been the one who has been the new kid at school or the new family on the block or the new pastor to the congregation. What follows that newness is relationship. Relationships take time and energy and commitment. Welcoming and loving one another is not always an easy task, but it is an important one. It is a Jesus task.
Whenever someone visits our congregation for the first time we have an opportunity to practice this wide welcome. If they have come to worship, we do our best to say “Welcome! We are glad you are here! Come again!” without overwhelming them with intrusive questions or overwhelming requests for information. If they have come for a community meeting or to tend a garden spot, we welcome them with our facilities, first and foremost. With spaces that invite gathering, gardening, reflection, and community. If they come for lunch we welcome them with compassion in response to Jesus’ command to feed those who are hungry. We welcome all people with respect.
When people return to worship after a time of absence, rather than ask “where have you been?”, which can carry a note of unintended judgement, the hospitable greeting is “it’s so good to see you”. I have had numerous conversations with folks who fall out of the rhythm of regular worship attendance. To a person, they tell me that they are reluctant to return because they don’t want to have to explain their absence. In truth, it’s nobody’s business! So a greeting of delight and welcome is always appropriate.
As we welcome Vicar Laura, we offer our enthusiastic support and care. We’ve had experience with interns, so we know that the mutuality of learning, teaching, serving, worshiping, and loving is a gift. Still, we welcome her for all that she is and is not, remembering that each intern is a unique and gifted individual.
Soon enough we will welcome 59 families as new neighbors. This will stretch our under-standing of welcome, I am certain, and we will be glad recipients of gifts we have yet to imagine. Already, our quilters are preparing to welcome those families with quilts. Soon, the actual construction will begin and we will welcome builders and architects and others onto the site. Welcome! Welcome!
Welcoming others can feel unfamiliar and daunting; loving them can seem terrifying, as Sherman Alexie has noted, but we are created for relationship and community, knit together as people of the kingdom and gathered in joy!
Grace & Peace,