Father George’s Sermon:
Welcome (28 June 2020)
“The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” this is the message of the ubiquitous blue and white signs that mark the way to a local parish church all over this country. When I travel noticing those signs have started many a side trip, or distraction, from the road.
This morning’s Gospel is about welcoming the stranger, inviting into our midst one who is unknown to us and bringing them into our fellowship – inviting them to be at home with us, even if they’re just “passing through.”
In the ancient middle east hospitality wasn’t just a courtesy, it was often a matter of life or death. Travelers were sometimes dependent upon the kindness of strangers for food, water, and shelter in an extremely hostile environment. To turn someone, especially a sojourner away was a grievous breach of cultural expectations and was considered a sin in many communities.
Hospitality and welcoming are something we do well here at the Church of the Mediator. In the few short months with you I have noticed that we go out of our way to welcome the visitor, make them feel at home in our worship services, and see that they are included in our fellowship time in Ryan Hall. In this way, we are living into both our baptismal covenant and our congregation’s mission statement.
When we welcome the stranger, or sojourner, into our midst we are welcoming Christ himself. Throughout Christian history we Jesus appeared to his Church, he always came to us in the guise of a stranger – often a poor stranger who would be easy for us to reject and/or neglect.
Joan Chittister writing in her book in 40 Stories to Stir the Soul (Benetvision, 2010) tells this story:
There was a monastery that was renowned for its hospitality, a welcoming place for many weary travelers in need of rest. One day while the abbot was deep in prayer, an angel appeared, surrounded by golden light. The abbot gazed in rapt contemplation and was filled with a peace beyond measure.
Suddenly a series of heavy knocks resounded on the front door. “It is some weary traveler come to find shelter,” the abbot said to himself. “What should I do? If I go and answer the door, the angel might disappear. If I stay, who will care for the traveler?”
Reluctantly the abbot rose, looked resignedly at the angel, and left the room in order to attend to the needs of the dust-stained traveler. When he returned to his cell, the angel, to the abbot’s great surprise, was still there. The angel said to him, “Had you not gone to help the needy traveler, I myself would have been compelled to leave.”From 40 Stories to Stir The Soul
When we welcome the stranger, we welcome Jesus himself; and suddenly, we find that we are his guests at his table as he welcomes us into his fellowship. Amen.
Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers every day. Stay safe and let us all remember to pray for each other.