Sunday Morning Reflection 28.6.20

Sunday Morning Reflection   28.6.20    Everyone is welcome

Good Morning , I am Karen Harbison, the Minister of Westburn Parish Church , Greenock and I am glad to welcome you  to this time of worship. Everyone is welcome, whether you are often at Westburn Parish Church, or whether you have never been there in person before. Everyone is welcome as we, each in our own places, our own homes, come to worship God.

Everyone is welcome is the theme for our worship today. I hope you have had the chance to watch and listen to some of the children from Hamilton School for the Deaf signing the chorus of a song we often sing ‘ Welcome everybody’

One of the great principles of many of the mainline faiths is hospitality and welcome. It is often one of the first things a congregation puts at the top of their list in describing themselves, indeed it comes before describing what they believe in many instances. Westburn’s Craft Group had just finished making a banner for the Hub area before lockdown and we look forward to hanging it up some day in the future… and the word on the banner is ‘Welcome’ Today we take the opportunity to think more about welcome guided by the words of Jesus in Matthew 10. Take a few moments to bring to mind times and places where you felt welcomed and times and places where you did not.

Opening words

Some of us are very young, some of us are getting old.

Some of us have hearts of gladness, some of us are filled with grief.

The strong and the weak, the faithful and doubter, the saint and sinner

All are welcome in God’s love

Let us pray

Welcoming God, we come to you as we often do, knowing that you are waiting with open arms, ready to welcome us, your family,wherever we are.

Welcoming Jesus, so often the recipient of hospitality and yet willing to sit with anyone, saint and sinner alike, we come to you knowing you are prepared to budge up and let us sit with you. Welcoming Spirit, so often hidden from sight and yet moving among us, we come to you knowing that the whispers of welcome are all around us.

Knowing we are welcomed and yet knowing that we have not always been deserving of that welcome, your wide arms of grace, O God, are too much to take in. When we come with our heads dipped in shame you gently lift our chins, gaze into our eyes, and say: welcome child, so good to see you. Lord, may we never take this for granted, try harder to live up to your gracious welcome, accept your love and, in turn, offer that same love and welcome to all whom we meet. Lord, gracious Lord, hear our prayer and hear us as we pray together in Jesus’ words

Our Father who art in heaven

hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts

as we forgive our debtors.

Lead us not into temptation

but deliver us from evil

for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory

Now and forever

Amen

We hear the word of God from Psalm 13 and as we continue to read from Matthew’s gospel from chapter 10 and Bill Dempster will read for us today.

Bible Reading

In Jesus’ day, the ethic of welcome was simply part of the culture of thousands of years and  had evolved into something  much more than a simple handshake, or invitation to come to coffee following the service. Because it was so deeply ingrained it was far less about simply welcoming a person as a lone individual. The hospitality of welcome had grown into accepting and welcoming and honouring everything that individual stood for along with those who were allied to them – their family and community. It was a network you welcomed: all the faces behind the face of the one standing before you. So when Jesus says the words, “Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me” it is the general taken-for-granted idea that if someone welcomes a disciple then that person welcomes all those allied to that disciple, namely Jesus. It is a way of seeing the world where everyone is connected, aware of our neighbour and our neighbour’s networks. We are very keen on networks in our society today—it is how Facebook works—yet we remain a very individualistic society. What is interesting here is Jesus being quite specific about the company he keeps and thus the people that are welcomed whenever you welcome a disciple. Part of the idea of welcome is to honour those who are associated with the one you are welcoming. You respect them, give them space, honour their character and goals. Thus in welcoming “these little ones” be they children, or the least in society, you are placing yourself beside them, respecting and honouring them. When we welcome Jesus, we welcome also the least, the lost, the forgotten, all those he kept company with. And Jesus did not keep good company! We know that to be true given the reaction from all the authority figures and the scandal he built up around himself. He is using the deep cultural sense of what welcome means to shift everyone closer to each other, and include those who are normally excluded. Therefore, if we welcome Jesus, we welcome the least. Thus let us reflect in our own faith communities how that works for each of us who believe we are a welcoming church. When we speak of “welcoming Jesus into our lives” is there room for those we are prejudiced towards, those we are awkward with, those we fear? Welcoming Jesus is a kingdom statement that affirms we are living in a particular way in the world that goes beyond the comfortable circles we easily welcome, and finds us in the places the world fears to go and where our own culture puts up barriers .So from this passage of just a couple of verses, comes a whole ethic and invitation of the kingdom, our call, intent, faith and our response to it.’ Those who welcome me, welcome the least, and those who welcome the least, have already welcomed me. ‘ May we be people of welcome. Amen.

Let us pray

God of welcome, we thank you that you are always ready, waiting to welcome us, always waiting to spend time with us and hear what we want to bring to you in prayer. This prayer could be an endless list and there will be situations missed and people escaping our attention, but we know that you are able to see beyond our limited memories and hold all that pains creation with us and for us. We are so consumed by the effects of a virus that many situations have gone unnoticed. We pray now for those in our world who feel forgotten: for refugees in camps not only worried about when their lives might take a better turn but now also fearful of this invisible danger; for men, women and children behind closed doors living with danger and torment at the hands of people who profess to love them; for people living with life-limiting conditions,already under stress; for those in the background within care-giving services, the cleaners and janitorial staff, the administrators and managers, doing what is needed to ensure hospitals and care homes run smoothly and safely; for places of conflict where, with attention elsewhere, dangers are increased and tensions raised, and where deaths continue unheeded. So many places, so many concerns, Lord; thank you that we can bring them to you, along with the silent prayers of our hearts………..O Lord , hear our prayers.Amen

An invitation to sit in a comfy seat, an offer of a glass of water or a cup of tea…. all signs of welcome

A few thoughts to help us reflect further on what welcome means

Lord, can I pull up a chair? Can I sit with here a while with you? Not too long though, I don’t want to outstay my welcome. You see, Lord, It is so good to feel wanted and welcome, not to be turned away or greeted with a “what now?” I try, Lord, to be like you: not to bristle when someone expects something from me; not to let my impatience show; to give people space and time. I know, Lord, that in saying “welcome” it opens up possibilities, some good and some that well, you know… will take all my patience. And in sitting with you awhile I am reminded again what “welcome” looks like and feels like. Thank you, God, for letting me sit awhile. I will leave you in peace now.

Blessing

Sung blessing – Amen Siakidumisa- traditional South African song meaning Amen we praise your name O Lord

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