[Jesus said:] “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous…”
Every time I read the words of Jesus in the verses from Matthew’s Gospel I feel like breaking out into song.
First, there’s the popular melody from the Broadway musical Cabaret, which begins, “Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome!”
Our Evangelical Lutheran Worship hymnal has a hymn, written by Marty Haugen [ELW #641], with the refrain, “All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place!” I found a calming version of this tune on YouTube which you can enjoy by clicking HERE.
One of my favorite hymns in the Lutheran Spanish hymnal, Libro de liturgia y cántico, is titled, “Bienvenido,” which obviously means “welcome.”
As I write these thoughts, I can’t help but hum these tunes. Consider yourself fortunate that you only have to read and not hear me.
Welcome is such a simple word. Many of us have welcome mats outside of our front doors. Often, our welcome mats simply say, WELCOME. Sometimes, we have welcome signs hanging outside the front door of our house. We may have a welcome plaque hanging in our entry hallway. In all cases we want to communicate to those who are entering that they are welcomed.
What does it mean to welcome someone? Simply put, you are glad to see them. You are delighted and pleased. You are very happy. You have a happy smile on your face which sends a message that you are happy that the person is here.
Jesus encourages us to share the gift of welcome. In two brief sentences, Jesus used the word “welcome” SIX times. Perhaps the best place for us to practice sharing that gift is in our worship service.
Being welcoming is stressed repeatedly in almost all churches these days. As I travel around the synod, most congregations have a person, or a team of persons, assigned to welcome the bishop. But my clothes – specifically my clerical collar – make me readily identifiable. And I can’t help but wonder, how would I be received if I were dressed differently?
How challenged would you feel if asked to welcome a stranger, a refugee, a homeless person; or anyone whose religion, or lifestyle – whose life – is “different,” from what you may consider normal?
As Jesus welcomed all people: tax collectors and prostitutes, Pharisees and even the occasional Gentile; so we, who are followers of Jesus, are called to be welcoming also.
Nevertheless, Jesus knew that his message and his disciples would not always be welcomed wherever they went, which is why he stresses welcome so much in this brief reading. He spent the preceding verses of this chapter telling them that some people may not welcome them. Some people may be hostile. In fact, their own family may not accept their missionary work.
“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me,” Jesus said. The next person you meet could put you in the presence of the Living God in strange and unusual ways. How welcoming will you be?
Thursday evening, June 29, I will offer devotions for the youth at the Hartville Migrant Center as they enjoy their Sport Night.
The Hartville Migrant Ministry began in 1952 to offer support to the migrants who work on the farms in Hartville during the growing season from April to October. It is one of the few remaining ecumenical migrant ministries in the United States. During my years as a parish pastor in Canton, I served on the Board of the Hartville Migrant Council and found it to be some of my most fulfilling ministry.
The volunteers work with other agencies and organizations to provide medical care, educational summer programs, adult education classes, a legal clinic, bible studies, and a community center with a bilingual library and computer center. These services are all volunteer staffed and funded by donations and grants.
Here is my parish visitation schedule for the next two weeks:
I will be with the people of God at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Stow on Sunday, July 2.
July 9, I am at Bethel Lutheran Church in Bath, at 10:00 in the morning.
That same July 9, at 3:00 p.m., I will be at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Salem to rejoice with the faithful there as they celebrate their 100th Anniversary.
Monday Musings will not publish next week due to the Fourth of July holiday. The next edition will appear on Monday, July 10. Have a safe and enjoyable Independence Day.
In the meantime, may God’s love embrace you, and may you be a sign of God’s merciful welcome to all those you meet this week and always!
+Bishop Abraham Allende