Sunday, June 29, 2008

Y'all come back now, y'hear?

Worship this morning was gorgeous. Wonderful Colleague preached welcome. He didn't just preach about it, he preached it. Tears of recognition were rolling down lots of faces as he talked about the many and various ways in which people have been decidedly unwelcome in the Church, as well as the ways our own little piece of Church lives out its welcome pretty well. And he challenged us to think about what genuine welcome looks and feels like, and to make it happen. Beautiful and inspiring. And then we sang a hymn that always makes me cry—All Are Welcome, by local musician and songwriter Marty Haugen. Verses 1 and 4:
Let us build a house where love can dwell
and all can safely live,
a place where saints and children tell

how hearts learn to forgive.

Built of hopes and dreams and visions,

rock of faith and vault of grace;

here the love of Christ can end divisions:

All are welcome, all are welcome,

all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where hands will reach
beyond the wood and stone
to heal and strengthen, serve and teach,

and live the Word they've known.

Here the outcast and the stranger

bear the image of God's face;

let us bring an end to fear and danger:

All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.

He and another amazing staffer also talked with the kids during children's time about who is and who isn't God's kid. Based on their responses and the spirited vibe they created, these kids know right now, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that every one of them is God's kid. That every one of us is God's kid. What a lovely thing.

And I just read something wonderful here, from Episcopal priest Susan Russell. If you've ever wrestled with the "sacrifice of Isaac" story, scroll down to the post "A Ram in the Thicket." One particularly lovely nugget:

What I hear in the good news of "The Lord will provide"
(which is the punchline of the story)
is a call away from being cornered into
the "either/or" messaging of the world around us

and open ourselves up to the "both/and-ness" of God.
We do NOT belong to a God
who calls us to kill our children
in order to "earn" God's love
we do NOT belong to a church
that calls us to sacrifice ANY member of the Body of Christ
in order to "earn" institutional unity.

Amen, Sister.

The mainlines are all in the throes of answering the "unity vs. justice" question, and it's playing out differently all over. Anglicans are slouching toward schism, Presbyterians inched toward ordination of GLBT clergy, and the Roman Catholic hierarchy is cracking down all over with "believe and live this set of tenets, or you disfellowship yourself." When I posted about a local controversy this week, a commenter wondered what it all has to do with me, as a Lutheran (though the comment itself was rather rudely phrased, I think this is where he was going).
  • It has to do with me because I am baptized, and therefore a member of the Body of Christ; in a sense, what happens to them happens to me. We are many parts, but one Body.
  • It has to do with me because I'm gay, and have experienced the un-welcome quite clearly, and the welcome just as clearly, and I'd like for everyone (not just GLBTs, but EVERYONE) to be more familiar with the latter than the former.
  • It has to do with me because, as God's kid, it's my job to help make it possible for everyone to know that God loves them, no matter what—not by force, but by welcome.
Wonderful Colleague, in today's sermon, was talking about a current news story, in which a small-town MN church that took out a restraining order on the family of an autistic boy who was disruptive during Mass. I don't know enough about the church or the family to comment with any certainty about the rights and wrongs of the situation, but I agree with WC that it's incredibly sad that the situation has ended up in court. Because a welcome isn't really a welcome if you have to demand it. The particulars of the situation are sad from any angle. The only up-side here is that it has people talking about welcome, and just how far it really extends. And, one way or another, we're better off when our abrasions get a little light and air, ya? Healing starts there.

Wouldn't it be great if we could find that "third way" together, the one that allows for both unity and justice, as Rev. Russell suggested?

I wish for you, Gentle Reader, and for everyone, the ability to rest in God's extravagant welcome.

And I wish for a global Church at least as warm as these folks, who ended every episode with "Y'all come back now, y'hear?"

P.S. Lest anyone whose comment appears at the aforementioned "local controversy" post worry that I was talking about them—no. I didn't post the rude one. I try not to give an arena to someone who's just trying to pick a fight.


Diane said...

great great great! it sounds like you are at a wonderful church!

(We sang All Are Welcome too)

Songbird said...

I need to hear that song!

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I'm glad you had such a beautiful service.

I'm shocked at what you posted about the family with the autistic child. But maybe I shouldn't be. We have a family who came to our parish because they felt strong vibes that their autistic child was not welcome in the church where the mom had grown up. Once they came to our church, the boy immediately started to behave better because he sensed that he was wanted. Interesting what a welcome will do.

Magdalene6127 said...

I didn't realize Marty Haugen was local to MN... he's wonderful, that sounds like a wonderful song, wonderful service... and wonderful reflections from you, CG, as always!

Jan said...

Love the words--wish I could hear it, too. Thanks for all the links and things to ponder. Such good reflections, CG. I am so glad we've connected.

Shalom said...

We sang that song on Sunday too! I love that song. Sounds like a great sermon.