By Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe
“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” – Matthew 10:40
In the season of Pentecost this teaching is at the heart of the Gospel message. In these words of welcome we have a glimpse into the meaning of a life of love. We see the invitation to love as we have been loved. A life of Christian love is one of hospitality and welcome. We are welcomed and received by God no matter where we find ourselves.
In these days of turmoil and isolation in our apartments, homes, retirement centers, living unhoused or back in the home of parents and loved ones—God welcomes us. No matter how uncertain we have a place in God’s realm of love.
In these days of the highlighting of racial disparity and injustice, killing, violence, brutality, demonstrations and calls for justice—God embraces us. Even before we ask, say grace or look up, we are welcomed into the life of love and justice.
As ones who have received hospitality, we become those who extend God’s hospitality and love.
When I was a young pastor serving a small church in South Carolina I had the privilege of serving in a remarkably faithful community. Some of the people of the church had few financial resources but lived full and rich lives.
One Sunday, a small boy of 5 years old came up to me before the service began. He tugged at my robe and said “Miss Susan I have to talk to you.” I knelt down to listen. He said, “Can I come to your church?” I was a bit taken aback and started to say how welcome he was. But before I could respond, he opened his little hand which held a nickel, “I only have this.” As tears filled my eyes, I said, “This is Jesus’ church and you are welcome. This church is for you. You do not have to pay to come here.”
Over the years, I have reflected on this bittersweet moment. In truth, like the society, the church is not always welcoming. It has rejected people. It has not walked with those with whom Christ walks. It has not always been humble and loving and hospitable. It has not always reflected the love which in Christ it has received.
As people of faith, we remember the welcome Christ has given us and let God’s love and justice flow through us. We walk with all with whom Christ walks. We advocate for those for whom Christ advocated. We welcome all those whom Christ welcomes.
Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe is general secretary of the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church.