Monday, October 1, 2012

Welcome Home

I think I've set the bar on my blogging too high. It seems I need some profound purpose before I can sit down and type out some thoughts. That's not how it's supposed to be; this is supposed to be a forum where I can regularly throw up some ideas and hope someone reads them and interacts with them. Perhaps I'll be able to develop the discipline to become more casual about this one day. But today, I need to write about something really profound I saw yesterday.

I'm not the kind of guy who sees spiritual lessons in everything he sees, but sometimes those lessons are hard to miss. Like when our Sunday school Scripture readings, taken from the Present Word study (Hebrews 13:1-3 & 1 Corinthians 13), and our sermon text, taken from the Revised Common Lectionary (Mark 9:38-50) both seem to point in the same direction of "hospitality and welcoming." In itself, not so strange: showing God's love through our acceptance and compassion is a reoccurring theme in Scripture, to say the least. But we also don't often get new visitors. We get them, don't get me wrong – people seem like us and we are growing as a congregation. But our growth comes in trickles, not in floods.

Yesterday however, we had four visitors in our pews (and for a church our size, those are "flood like" numbers): the invited neighbor of a member, the young couple that appeared to be "church shopping," and – we'll call her – "the lady with the cat." She gave us her name, which turns out isn't her real name, but it doesn't matter anyway. She was clearly schizophrenic and clearly homeless.

What I found even more profound than the synergy of Scripture lessons was the fact that no one freaked out about "the lady with the cat." I'm not sure what I expected, these are wonderful people and I've never seen them be anything other than gracious and accepting to visitors. But a schizophrenic homeless lady with a cat might be another story. Of course we're going to love and accept the neighbor of our member-friend. Of course we're going to be on our best behavior with the cute young couple; they are most churches' target demographic. But "the lady with the cat" isn't like us. She doesn't look like us, she doesn't think like us, and she doesn't live like us.

What I saw yesterday made me proud of this church to the point of tears: I saw the people of this congregation welcoming all of yesterday's visitors with exactly the exact same warmth and acceptance. Not just the visitors that reminded us of ourselves and who we hope to be, but all of our visitors. Would they have been so accepting if the Scriptures had carried another theme? Of course they would have. I believe the point was more of a reminder, not of who we're supposed to be, but of who we are. And I for one feel blessed to be in such good company.