Last Sunday, we heard the story of the Good Samaritan. If you’ll recall, after a man was beaten and robbed, he was left naked and half dead in a ditch. As fate would have it, two guys (they were all guys back then) who were among the religious elite came by, saw the man bleeding in the ditch, and passed by on the other side. As I posited last week, they engaged in active jerkery.
Contrast that story with the Genesis lesson in Track 2 of the Lectionary (which you won’t hear read at Saint Paul’s because we’re doing Track 1 this summer and TKT is preaching on Amos on Sunday) in which Abraham, while sitting at the entrance of his tent, enjoying the warm summer breeze, looked up and saw three complete strangers nearby and went out of his way to welcome them.
When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on– since you have come to your servant.”
Well, he actually went out of Sarah and one of their slave’s way, but the family certain did their best to welcome the strangers.
Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.
I can’t help but wonder how “out of our way” we go to welcome guests into our midst. I’m not talking used car salesman, hot boxing of these people, but do we make them feel welcome? Do we help them navigate the bulletin and hymn books? Do we help them understand the flow to the altar rail? Do we walk with them to the coffee pot after the service is over and introduce them to someone else? Are we proactive in our welcome?
I’d like to think that most congregations aren’t actively jerky to guests, but I suspect most are at best passive. They assume everyone knows what H82 or LEVASII or 79BCP means. They assume that everyone knows how to get communion (or a blessing), how to get signed up for more information, or that a coffee hour even exists. SHW grew up in a Presbyterian Church where a post-worship fellowship event happened monthly, not weekly. Coffee hour isn’t as ubiquitously Christian as we might like to believe.
At Saint Paul’s, we probably get a B- in active welcome. We’ve slipped back into some old habits of post-worship welcome that we should do away with, but we’re trying. The life of faith is proactive, and as Abraham can attest, it is certainly worth the effort.