Wednesday Word: Welcome
That word has several different connotations. In one sense it conveys a place of generosity, hospitality, inclusion, safety, and maybe comfort. People, my wife and I included, often have “Welcome” mats at their front door. I've seen many a banner or flag hanging near a front door proclaiming the same message.
I've often wondered to myself, “What would happen if I showed up at one of those doors, knocked, and asked to come in?” And then I've wondered if my reception would be different based on how I was dressed. What would happen if I showed up in a grungy t-shirt, pants down past my backside with boxer shorts plainly visible, and my Carmel's Goosetown Mafia hat worn sideways? What would happen if I showed up with ripped jeans, torn shirt, and blood dripping down my face? What would happen if I showed up in a suit and tie carrying any number of “Jesus Loves You” brochures? Or a suitcase labeled, “Fuller Brush?” What would happen if I were black?
You can play any number of those scenarios out in your mind's eye, but until you actually try it you won't really know.
It also works the other way. “What would happen,” we can ask ourselves, “if someone actually shows up at my front door saying, 'I saw the welcome sign; may I come in?'”
In essence this is what we do every Sunday at St. John's. We hang a sign out front that says, “Welcome,” and we open our doors inviting anyone and everyone to enter this house we care for. Do we mean it? If we think we do, are we prepared for what might happen?
Are we prepared for the baggy-pantsed, backward-hat wearing young adult to come in and lounge in a pew? Are we prepared to receive the well-dressed, religiously earnest salesperson? Are we ready to cope with the beaten, bloodied, victim needing assistance? Are we willing to not shush the young families with babies who cry during sermons?
I think, hope, and pray that we are.
This Sunday we will celebrate St. John's Day and Ministry Fair. This is the day you will get to see all, or almost all, of the ministries this parish supports and participates in. This is the day you will have the opportunity to offer your time and talent to any of those ministries. This is the day when we are specifically reminded that all are welcome here at St. John's.
And this is the day when we should process what that word, Welcome, means to us both corporately and individually.
And as we move forward, it's worth contemplating how others perceive our words of welcome, and whether or not we live up to expectations.