Awhile back on this blog, I engaged in a series of posts and conversations about the ideas of being welcome and being sought. First, we considered implications of “All are Welcome.” Then, we considered “All are Sought.” I added some reflections on “Accompaniment,” and from there we broadened out the conversation for implications in congregations, and then added a few more thoughts. Since the fall though this conversation has been a bit quiet.
That is until this past Sunday. Friend and life-long learning pastor Stephanie Vos shared a beautiful sermon at Trinity Lutheran Church which I believe adds to this conversation and I thank her for her words and ideas.
Stephanie grounded the message in Luke 14:7-14 which is often labeled a “parable on humility.” For me, two things always jump out in this passage. One is the connection of being humbled and exalted. The other, and probably more importantly, is the call to “invite those who cannot repay you.”
In her sermon Stephanie lays the ground work well. The gospel narrative comes from a culture of honor and shame, and even status. In many ways today’s world is different. But in many ways, its very similar. The particulars may have changed, but the ideas of status, honor and shame are still present. Today we have bullying, food-stamps, the juxtaposition of the “have’s and have-not’s,” social inequality and the list continues. Stephanie makes an interesting point. We can and do “find ourselves on both sides of the terrible equation.” We know the hurt, we know the pain. But we also “absolutely hear how radical the message of Jesus is.” We are yearning for inclusion, connection, and belonging.
There is an important reminder in all of this. First of all, we should invite everybody. We do all long to hear this message of invitation and welcome. Alongside this, is a desire or a growing willingness at least to be vulnerable.
Stephanie also highlights the reflections from Glennon Melton, at momastery.com. (If you haven’t seen her Ted Talk and related posts, then please do check them out.) This is a helpful addition to broadening the ideas of welcome and inclusion.
Towards the end of the sermon, she asks “who in your life could use an invitation?” She invites the congregation to participate in this, and I invite you to wrestle with this as well. Who, and “how are you going to make them feel welcome this week?”
If for some reason its not clear where God is in all of this or the church, Stephanie says to look no further than the promise. “God has put up no barriers.” Rather, “God sees you, welcomes you and knows you!” “You are invited!” Now go and share those words and that message with your neighbors and strangers.
What do you think about this idea and message? How does it add to, challenge, or shift our conversation from the fall around ideas of welcome, sought, and accompaniment?
Image Credit: Open and Inviting Church Door