Sunday, September 14, 2008

Welcome All!

[ Reflections on Romans 14:1-12 for the 1:00 Bilingual Service at All Saints Church ... Sunday, September 14th]


Welcome All

“Whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on your journey of faith, there is a place for you here.”

Unless this is your first Sunday at All Saints Church, you know that these words are ones we say EVERY Sunday … in fact, they are words that are core values for this congregation and have been for a very long time.

Every once in a while, someone questions whether we really mean it. “"Whoever you are” you are welcome here? Really?"

“WHEREVER you are on your journey of faith? Really?"

Yes, really. Whoever. Wherever. You are welcome here. ALL are welcome here. Really. All.

And this morning, I’m so very pleased that one of the lessons for today is the reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans. It is a lesson that proves – once and for all – that “whoever you are you are welcome here” is not something Ed Bacon or Abel Lopez made up one day over a margarita. Rather, it is something that is as old as the very earliest days of the Christian faith and the words of the apostle Paul.

Listen again to his words – important words spoken to the 1st century Christians in Rome that are just as important for we 21st century Christians here in Pasadena:

Welcome those whose faith is weak, and do not argue with them. The opinions of people range from those who believe they may eat any sort of meat, to those who abstain. Those who eat everything must not despise those who abstain. The ones who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat, for God has welcomed them. Who are you to judge someone else?
The point of this lesson, of course, isn’t what's for lunch. It isn't about who’s a vegetarian or who isn’t – it’s about how God expects us to respect each other in our differences and how Paul expects the Christians he’s writing to in Rome to welcome – not argue with – those who were different than they are.

And that’s a lesson we ALL need to learn … over and over again … not only here at All Saints Church but in every part of our life and work – especially during this election season when it seems that there is so very much to disagree about with each other! (At least that’s what it looks like on the television news every night!)

Another thing you will have heard before -- if you’ve been here more than once – is that All Saints is committed to the work of turning the human race into the human family. And so, if we put the two together, after we’ve welcomed you to All Saints Church -- whoever you are and wherever you are on your journey of faith – then what you’re welcome to do when you get here is help us to live out the human family values every day that we talk about every Sunday.

We hear a lot about “family values,” don’t we – particularly when it’s election time. But what we are committed to here at All Saints Church is valuing ALL families. And we’re committed to working to make not just this congregation but this country a place were all are not just welcome but given equal opportunity. When we work during the week for immigration reform or improving the health care system or protecting marriage equality, we’re doing it in response to our desire to live as God would have us live – to welcome all as we have been welcomed – to respect the dignity of every human being by treating them as we would treat members of our own family.

Next Sunday is “Homecoming” and we’ll start off the new church program year by welcoming back those who’ve been away for the summer, as well as those who may be here for the first time. And the following week is “Celebration of Ministries” Sunday – when we’ll get a chance to see displays from all the many ministries doing God’s work here at All Saints Church.

This is a wonderful time to invite friends – neighbors or relatives – to join us here at All Saints Church where whoEVER you are and wherEVER you find yourself on your journey of faith, there is a place for you. Really.

Yes, really. Whoever. Wherever. You are welcome here. ALL are welcome here. Really. All.

Thanks be to God.

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