Welcome is an act of faith
Updated: Aug 14
In our Gospel reading last week, Jesus headed off for some introvert time, he literally got into a boat and paddled out in the middle of water just to be alone, and the people heard about this and they crowded around the shore and just waited for him to come back, conditions in which I would not be able to relax. Alright, we gotta feed and heal these crowds, pack it up, break time is over.
So in our Gospel reading this week, he tries again. He dismisses the crowds, he literally tells his disciples to get into a boat and sail away from him so he can get that alone time. And he sees from the mountain that they waves and the wind have battered them, and it's again, welp, pack it up, time to go save everyone again.
Now in seminary, they warn you never to put yourself into the position of Jesus when you are explaining a passage of scripture, but I laugh reading these passages because all summer long folks have been asking me how my work's been going and besides a thing or two here or there, I've just been chilling. The crowds dispersed, the disciples are on a boat. It's been so calm. And now, ten days out from new student move-in, it is time to get back to work. We had our summer on the mountain to pray, and now the crowds are reassembling. There are people who are hungry, sick, drowning, and it is time to get back to work, and I mean not just me, it is time for The House, and it is time for Trinity to get back to work.
Now I wanna explain what I mean when I say -- back to work -- I don't think -- please correct me if I'm wrong -- I don't think any of us here have been blessed with food multiplication or water walking or miraculous healing, though please please tell me if you have. But broadly speaking, the work that Jesus did was that he brought people into a vision for a new way of living together, a new ethic of mutual care and community and he built that community among his followers. His vision was for a world where wealth didn't determine deservedness, where food and health were freely given and freely received, his vision was for a world where strength was shown with heart rather than might. Jesus brought people into that vision of a new world, he built up that community, by preaching and teaching, by healing and forgiving, by feeding the hungry and calling the wealthy to repent.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to do that work too, if not by miracle then by other means. A church community like this brings people into that ethic of the Gospel by being friends to one another, showing care to one another when things are hard, be it by means of a casserole or a doordash gift card or a coffee or just a listening ear. We give people a place where they know they won't be judged for who they are, we give them meaningful ways to contribute to their community, a place to make new friends, and be challenged to see the world around them with more charity and generosity. Like Jesus, our work of being the church is to build up a caring community by welcoming new people into our midst and then just being together. And for me, the start of the schoolyear is the time to do that work. Trinity, if you'll join me in that work, it is time to orient ourselves towards welcoming some new people into this community.
I know, ughh it's time to come down off of the mountain, it's time to get out of the boat. It's hard work to open ourselves up to new people, because it creates uncertainty in our future, when we welcome new people in, it means when can't plan for everything. I've been having this conversation with my young adult and college leadership teams. There is only so much that we can plan for a new schoolyear, because the Club Carnival is gonna happen on campus and we could get two new members or twenty, we could table at the Pride festival and get one new person at bible study or fifteen. If we put ourselves out there and say that we are open, and then new people actually come -- they will change things for us, and we get to let them.
It means that I have no idea what my ministry will look like or feel like six months from now -- I know that we'll still have things like Sunday crafternoon or our Tuesday night dinners, but beyond that I have no a clue. I don't know what new members we will welcome, I do not know what their interests will be or what ideas they will have. I cannot anticipate how they will change us and it is at the same time exciting and scary but it is a faithful act, I think, to hope for who might join us, to clear a path for them, and to hold at the same time excitement and fear.
It is my prayer at the start of every schoolyear and at the start of every semester that God would send us the members that we need, and the members that have need of us, and it is my prayer that we would be able to receive them in the way that they deserve. And I am going to loan y'all that same prayer for the six weeks. It is my prayer that God would send to Trinity the members that Trinity needs and that have need of a place like Trinity. It is my prayer that this community would be able to welcome them and incorporate them in the way that they deserve, and that they would cause just enough trouble here that they would crack open our imaginations for what God is calling this church to be.
And when we are faced with new people, sometimes the answer to that prayer comes in (God giving us the courage to) your going up to talk to them, not just saying Hi and running away, but a real conversation. It means inviting them to a Trinity event or a ministry that you think they might enjoy -- and if you can't think of one, maybe it means planning a new ministry or event that you would feel good about inviting them too. It means introducing our new folks to one or two or three other members that you think might be good friends to them, of it you might be a good friend to them, it means maybe inviting them out for coffee or lunch, in a way that maybe isn't too abrupt or forward. (I feel like the newcomers and old timers are really sweating at this point, LOL.)
I think the answer to the prayer that we would continue to become the community that God is calling us to be,, I think that that answers comes in being brave enough to get out of the boat,, in stepping off of the shore into what might seem like a storm. And I think that the difference between that being something scary and something fun and good and exciting, might just be in having a little faith that Jesus will meet us out there, too. Amen.