Last week Pastor Monica spoke to us about being rooted in faith. She used the illustration of two trees; how the roots underground twist into one another, leading to the two trees dependent on one another for life. Pastor Monica shared that like the trees, our roots to one another lead us to be connected and dependent on one another.
Our common faith brings us together and creates interdependent relationships. All of us here have relationships with others in this room- acquaintance, fellow volunteers, long time friends, family. Before we reach the level of having a close relationship with another person, there is a phase that has to be achieved successfully, otherwise the relationship doesn’t flourish. There must be a moment of welcoming in.
Now most people think about being welcoming in regards to friendliness and courtesy. This is the cultural and linguistic definition of the word. We think of shaking the hand of someone new; holding the door for someone; introducing ourselves to someone we do not know; sharing a smile with a stranger. And while these are all appropriate and kind actions, They don’t fully capture the kind of “welcoming” that I am talking about.
There is a welcoming heart that comes with being a person of faith. If we believe our common humanity and our faith in Jesus connects us to one another, there will hopefully be a transformation within us to take on a heart that loves like Jesus loves. The heart of Jesus isn’t just being polite; it’s making room for complete love and compassion towards others.
A few years back, when I was working at Newark UMC, the pastor that I worked under said something to me once that has never left me. He said, “I finally learned that freedom in Christ was realizing that it wasn’t my responsibility to change people or fix people. All I had to do was be open to love others and just love them.” There is something so spiritual that happens when we welcome people into our lives and our hearts. There is a change that happens for those on either side of the experience.
In our gospel reading today, Two disciples encounter a man on the road that runs from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They are grief stricken, as this is not long after Jesus’ crucifixion. They aren’t focused on who it is that walks with them. They spend time on the walk sharing about their messiah with this stranger, and listen as this stranger explained to them why Jesus’ death took place. It says the man interpreted for them all the things that scripture wrote about the messiah, from Moses through the prophets. It’s when they reach the town of Emmaus, that something transformational takes place. Jesus is revealed to the men. They recognize that it is him just as he disappears from their sight. This realization doesn’t happen in a dramatic reveal. It is in a simple action of Jesus breaking the bread at their table. But do not miss why this moment is so important. Because this reveal happened in a moment of welcome. The two men welcomed Jesus into their home, and sit down and break bread with him. When we welcome people into our lives, we welcome in the presence of God. When our hearts are open to others, our hearts in effect are opened to what God is revealing to us; And God reveals himself to us through the person who is looking back at us. Because the two disciples chose to open their homes and open their hearts to a stranger, Christ was revealed to them.
This gives us much to think about. What does it look like for our lives to be rooted in welcome? Do we believe that being a welcoming person is more than just a handshake? What keeps us from being as welcoming as we could be? Who is it that we are willing to be welcoming towards? These are deep questions for the heart, and it takes our lifetime to grow and gain wisdom for each question. But there is day-to-day welcoming we all can put into practice. Is there someone in this church that you don’t know very well? Go out of your way to get to know that person. Or maybe it’s someone at work, or someone in your family.
Back in August, I shared a sermon with you about “sharing the well”. God hopes for us to not just share from our wells of what we can give or what we can do; There is also sharing from the well of our hearts. What I am asking is not easy to do; it’s easier to hold back and be guarded, and we may feel justified in holding back. But the kingdom of God is bigger and fuller than we sometimes see; and God does not intend for the church to be for a select few. We cannot truly know the soul of another person unless we welcome them into our lives. We are called to be rooted in loving one another well.
My prayer is that God would continue to give us the grace to be disciples that have welcoming hearts. That we would be a church whose doors, arms and hearts are truly open to the people in our midst.
Old Testament Lesson: Deuteronomy 10:12-13; 17-20
So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being.
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God; him alone you shall worship; to him you shall hold fast, and by his name you shall swear.
Gospel Lesson: Luke 24:13-16; 28-32
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”
Meditations For Your Week
Sunday, October 13 ~ Saturday, October 19
Sunday: “So now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you? Only to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all the LORD’s ways, to love God, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul” Deuteronomy 10:12. Pray for the courage to fear only God, and not human opinion, as you love God by welcoming God’s people into God’s household.
Monday: “And to keep the commandments of the LORD your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being.” Deuteronomy 10:13. God cares for our wellbeing. Our inclusion of others enhances who we are. We become more fully ourselves when we appreciate who our neighbors are. Praise God for God’s care for our well-being.
Tuesday: “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing.” Deuteronomy 10: 17-18. How are you advocating for the orphan and the widow by providing them food and clothing?
Wednesday: “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10:19. Consider that while the welcome of the stranger might be uncomfortable, this does not make it negligible. God reminds us that welcoming the other is fundamental to who we are as people of faith
Thursday: “When Jesus was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.” Luke 24: 30. The sacrament of communion opens our eyes to Jesus in our everyday objects like bread and juice as well as our everyday lives. Pray for Jesus to take, bless, break, and give us all we need as we seek to serve and follow God.
Friday: “Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Jesus; and he vanished from their sight.” Luke 24: 31. Consider that there are times when Jesus is in our presence, and we do not recognize him. We come to know God through means of grace like communion and prayer, but also seeking justice and giving generously.
Saturday: “They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” Luke 24: 32. Where is Jesus speaking to you? Have you made time to stop and spend time with Jesus?