"But First, Ashes" | A Prayer for Ash WednesdayRead More
as I begin this week, care for me as your beloved child.
Help me to do what you are calling me to do
when it's easy but especially when it's hard.
Send your Spirit to guide me in my victories and in my trials.
Be with me in my work and in my leisure
as I seek to be the best that I can be
and do to the best of my abilities that which you want me to do. Amen.
A few weeks ago, I attended a retreat for people all over the Synod of the Northeast. While we were worshiping, a young mother with a child began to get up and leave the service. She did so because her young one was making noise (imagine that! a young child making noise!). As she left, someone next to me looked at her and said compassionately, "you don't have to leave." The mother smiled but left nonetheless.
The woman who had invited her to stay actually left the worship service and followed the mother out the door. A few minutes later, the woman and the child returned to worship with the rest of us. I feel it safe to assume that the woman spoke to the mother and re-affirmed her invitation. The woman must have believed that worship is a place for all persons, regardless of age and regardless of their ability to be "decent and in order" (as us Presbyterians so often obsess over).
This, friends, is a radical welcome. We need more of this in our churches and worshiping communities.
At this retreat, we talked about getting to a place of "deeper welcome." So often, we were told, we take "welcome" to mean "you're welcome to join us here were we are comfortable." This model of welcome is a very self-centered approach that doesn't embody the radical inclusivity that Jesus practiced and preached.
A deeper welcome is a welcome in which we say "you are welcome here and, to prove it, I am going to come to you in your reality and not expect it the other way around." Many churches are worried about dwindling numbers but are unwilling to explore this deeper welcome that is so very prevalent in Jesus' actions in the Gospels.
I learned something very valuable that day. I must be challenged to see things from others perspectives. As long as my definition of welcome comes from my vantage point of comfort, it will get me nowhere and I will be no where closer to embodying what it is that Jesus is calling me, and us, to do.
So, friends, welcome to a "deeper welcome." What are the ways in your community that you practice a deeper welcome?
God of Peace,
we pray this day for the people of Paris
who are, tonight, victims of senseless violence.
We confess that too often we live as a people of warfare
instead of living into the peace to which you call us to embrace.
Be with the victims of today's terrorist attacks,
may the bloodshed be as little as possible,
may those who have been hurt be healed,
may those who have lost their lives be welcomed into your arms.
Be with the police, the medical workers, the volunteers,
and the Good Samaritans that are welcoming strangers into their homes.
Help us in all that we do that your peace may be made known
in the face of a world that so often moves in the opposite direction. Amen.
A poetic reflection on short sabbath I took last week at a dear friend's cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Northwest, Georgia. stubborn hill, spinning tires, back it up, try it again. Focus, Feel...forward! Up it goes and forward I look... and there it passes by my right, unnoticed.
It will not scream out to me; it will simply wait to be found
for waiting is its only purpose, its only calling.
At the top I weave and wind, whither and wane as I shift and rev to return to a lane that I once wandered far and traveled upon alone and with courage.
I celebrate my victory for the briefest of moments and then remember that I have yet to find that which begs to be found.
Rain gently drums on my windshield and the wipers wake me from my thoughts. I could call, I could ask, but, no, this is the point, isn't it?
I return and slowly slide down that same stubborn hill. the first time, I had no choice but to speed for only momentum would do. But this time I creep, I crawl, my neck is free to turn my wandering head back and forth. My eyes squint and
there it is!
My heart leaps and I delicately turn into a sanctuary that I have never known and I have always missed.
I welcome the rain for it reminds me that I am alone. While others see it as dismal, distant, and dark, I feel it, in this moment at least, as soothing, as something that reminds me that things are in need of being washed away.
I am alone. I am welcome. I am known.
Here I was....here I am....here I will be.
I adjust to the quiet; it is, after all, alarmingly present. It isn't a simple thing going from an everything that is nothing to a nothing that is everything.
I walk around, it take it all it, or perhaps it takes me all in...I'll never quite understand.
The mist rolls over the mountains and the chimes, ever so gently, respond to the wind's subtle push.
You're here, it's time, let go, and listen their song so simply suggests. And I relent, and reluctantly retreat into nothingness and there abide for a while.