Welcomed and Sent
Pastor's Monthly Newsletter Article for August, 2012
Part 2; of a 7-Month Series on the Core Commitments of Saint Peter Lutheran Church
85% of Lutheran Congregations believe they are “more welcoming than average.” (85% of Lutheran Pastors believe they are “above average preachers” – myself included!) I’m making these statistics up, of course, to make a point: it is the rare organization that doesn’t imagine itself to be “welcoming” (whether or not it actually is…).
Yet those of us who are followers of a crucified and risen Christ understand this term in a different sense. The welcome that Jesus offers is a radical welcome — an offensive welcome. Religious leaders of the day ridiculed him for having such loose standards. (Luke 5:27-32) At his last supper (the very first Eucharist), those who betrayed, denied and abandoned him were fully included in the meal. (Matthew 26:20-30) And we understand that even though we don’t deserve it, we too have been unconditionally welcomed into the love and grace and eternity of God. (Romans 5:6-11)
Jesus calls us to extend this same radical, offensive welcome to the people of our day. Absolutely nobody is unwelcome in our fellowship and at our table. In regards to those whom we might find offensive, this may be hard news for us to hear. But the good news is this: if nobody is beyond the reach of God’s grace, then neither are we. There will be some — even some who call themselves Christians — who scorn us for this. But what else should followers of a crucified and risen Lord expect? (Matthew 10:24-25)
Jesus didn’t come to this world to enjoy the honors and privileges of being the Son of God, but to offer himself as a sacrifice for the world. (Philippians 2:5-11) There was (and is!) no limit to his willingness to give to others.
Likewise, he sends us all into the world, to follow him in serving others. Christian faith is not the path to comfort and security; it is the invitation to give of ourselves, just as Jesus did. (Mark 8:33-36) We live in a time when self-indulgence is celebrated. (“Have it your way.” “Charity begins at home.” “Every man (sic.) for himself.”) Yet we celebrate a Lord who calls us to give of ourselves in sacrificial ways. There are those who may consider this whole line of thinking to be foolishness. (1st Corinthians 1:18-25) But we know the power of God is in it. And as we give, sacrificially, from our abundance, we discover ourselves to be in deep communion with Christ. (Matthew 25:31-46)
Radically welcomed; radically sent. That’s the congregation God is calling us to be. How do you think we’re doing? How are you doing?
God’s peace to you all,
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Themes for the coming months are: “We Are a Mission Driven Congregation” (Sept.); “We Are Committed to 'Permission Giving' in All that We Do” (Oct.); “Our Supporters Are Involved on a 'Gifts Based' Basis” (Nov.); “We Are Prayer-Centered” (Dec.); “Our Lives Revolve around Discipleship” (Jan.)