February 2010 Pastor's Monthly Newsletter Article What does it mean to be a member of Saint Peter Lutheran Church? Based on Romans 5 and St. Matthew 28, we have chosen to declare it means to be welcomed into God’s love, just as we are; and sent into God’s world, to be a reflection of Christ’s love.
I especially like the first half of this mission statement, because I believe that in Jesus Christ, God is offering a radical welcome to any and all who hear the proclamation of his death and resurrection. Paul got it right in his letter to the Romans: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Before we could earn it, deserve it, even ask for it, Christ died for us, and God welcomed us into salvation. This is not a deal, offered to us, that we will receive if we hold up our end of the bargain. It is a reality proclaimed to us. It is God’s reality for us.
This is radical stuff. While we were yet sinners! In other words, nobody is beyond the bounds of God’s grace. This is the message that welcomes us into the heart of God. And this must be the message with which we welcome others into an experience of God’s grace.
What will that look like for us at Saint Peter? How will we offer, not just a warm reception to those who happen to stumble into our worship area, but a radical welcome to all the people of the world? It may begin with a Pastor who stands at the entrance to the driveway of our church on Sunday mornings, waving to cars that pass by, visiting with early-morning walkers, and greeting those who turn in to worship with us. It may continue with hosts who meet us at the curb in the parking lot to convince us that they are glad to have us here today. It may also continue with an expanding core group of members who are aware of newcomers, attentive to any special needs they may have, and intent on introducing them to other members of our community.
But extending God’s radical welcome to the world will also press us to stretch and grow in our efforts to invite others. It will mean making room in our hearts and in our community for those who come from different socio-economic surroundings, those who disagree with our politics, those whose skin color may not match ours, those whose sexual orientation contrasts with ours, those who grew up in different religious systems, those who battle addictions, those the rest of the world may prefer to ignore. God’s radical welcome calls us to take the risk of reaching out, even when we ourselves are a bit reluctant to do so.
This is radical stuff. If it doesn’t offend us at some level, we do not understand it. Everyone must be included in God’s forgiveness – because if even one is excluded, then perhaps you or I might be excluded as well. At the climax of the liturgy, the Pastor proclaims: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin.” All means all. We are called to proclaim this truth: that all are welcomed into the love of God; just as we are.
The radical nature of God’s welcome gives it the power to capture our hearts and transform our lives, the power to make Godly choices and live Godly lives. The more radical our embrace of that message, the more radical (and the more positive!) the change in our lives – and in the lives of those we touch – will be.
God’s peace to you all