I’ll be worship leader at an upcoming 5-day contemplative retreat on the theme of “God’s Welcome.” I hope you’ll join us as we explore the crucial theme of hospitality.
Here are the specifics:
God’s Welcome: A 5-Day Contemplative Retreat Date: October 16-21, 2016 Faculty: The Right Reverend Kee Sloan (Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama) and Dr. Amy Oden (Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality at Saint Paul School of Theology at Oklahoma City University) Location: Camp McDowell, Nauvoo, AL Cost: $750 (room, board and tuition)
God’s Welcome is sponsored by the North Alabama and Alabama-West Florida Conferences of The United Methodist Church, The Academy for Spiritual Formation, and The Episcopal Diocese of Alabama.
I saw a bunch of signs on my recent vacation in Colorado and it got me thinking about our ministry of hospitality. One particular sign pointing to Jesus caught my attention as I was driving from Raymond to Allenspark. About the third time I passed, I decided I needed to check it out. I turned the car around, pulled into the driveway toward “Jesus,” and found the next sign, “No Trespassing.” Hmmmm.
Another set of signs has intrigued me for several years. I see them when I walk up the canyon on my daily walk along the river. On my way, I pass two entrances to the same property. The first entrance sports a beautiful sign saying — in a very emphatic way — “Keep Out.” The other entrance feels very open and hospitable, declaring, “Welcome Friends.” But the combination of the two leaves me feeling just a little bit uncomfortable. I’m not sure whether I’m in the category of “friend” (welcome) or “stranger” (keep out).
This is somewhat like our churches, isn’t it? We get all excited about showing the way to Jesus, but when people turn in the driveway, we’ve got other signs that tell them — no trespassing, keep out. (Or one of my favorite signs from rural Oklahoma, “Trespassers will be violated!”)
Or we say we welcome all people. (Open hearts. Open doors. Open minds.) But sometimes our guests have the distinct feeling that the welcome is not 100%. If you are not our “friends,” then the message is “keep out.” That’s the challenge, isn’t it?
I love this quote from Peter Storey:
SOME TELL US that following Jesus is a simple matter of inviting him into our hearts. But when we do that, Jesus always asks, “May I bring my friends?” And when we look at them, we see that they are not the kind of company we like to keep. The friends of Jesus are the outcasts, the marginalized, the poor, the homeless, the rejected — the lepers of life.
We hesitate and ask, “Jesus, must we really have them too?”
Jesus replies, “Love me, love my friends!”
– Peter Storey Listening at Golgotha: Jesus’ Words from the Cross