Pastor’s Blog February 2017

Welcoming the stranger is a hot topic at the moment. Not only have our own nation’s attitudes been tested by the refugee crisis but across the Atlantic a great storm of protest has been aroused by the new President’s edict on immigration.

We ourselves have recently been reviewing the welcome that we give to visitors and we have had some positive and encouraging feedback, while recognising there is more that we can do.

However I think it is important that we regularly ask ourselves the question, “In our heart of hearts is everyone welcome in our church?” Or are there people, or groups that we would rather not encounter here. In his letter James wrote about the distinction in welcome that was made between the rich and the poor and railed against it. This happened within 20 years of Pentecost, in the very Jerusalem church, which Luke in Acts describes as having no poor among them.

We know that in the Southern States of America and in South Africa, black and white people didn’t worship together. This kind of segregation is very easy for us to recognise and condemn in others but of course is much more subtle in our own hearts.

In the parable of the sheep and the goats which seems to me to have something in common with the beatitudes Jesus says that those who are blessed v35, where those who when, “I was hungry gave me something to eat, I was thirsty you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,” Jesus considers those who welcome strangers to be blessed. That is the point, welcoming strangers, people who are not like us, who don’t fit into the groups that we normally deal with and relate too, is perhaps harder than we imagine.

It is natural for us to feel comfortable with people who are like us, who share our values, who inhabit our world. Jesus envisaged a church in which these distinctions no longer mattered. Rich and poor, young and old, male and female, Jew and Gentile, black and white, African and Asian all welcome, even perhaps especially saints and sinners all welcome in his church.

In days when there is deep mistrust of strangers we the church of Jesus Christ must ensure that everyone knows that they are welcome among us.

Actually there is one exception, Perfect People are not welcome here!

 

Phil Dixon

Pastor