“…I was a stranger and you welcomed me”
In Central Pennsylvania, where I come from, I had the opportunity to be welcomed into the homes of many parishioners. However, I could often measure just how welcomed I really was based on what was placed before me at the table. An empty table tended to signify a desire for a short visit. It was clear to me that I was free to leave at any time (the sooner the better in some cases!). A glass of water or a cup of coffee suggested a desire for a more substantial visit. I was at least welcome until the cup was empty. But the highest form of welcome I ever received was a tin of cookies. This simple gift of homemade treats spoke more words of welcome to me than could have ever been said aloud. In this gift, I realized that they had been preparing to welcome me. The preparation of this treat suggested that I was on their heart and was indeed welcome before arriving at their door. The use of the tin suggested that I would be welcomed in the future because I needed to, at the very least, return their beloved cookie vessel. In that tin of cookies, I was given a welcome that was not bookended but open-ended.
What if we gave our highest welcome to all who entered our doors? Whether they were entering the doors of our homes or the doors of our church and whether they were old friends or friends yet to be discovered, what if we made all who gathered in our most sacred and intimate spaces feel welcomed: through a gift of homemade treats, a warm smile, or another act of kindness and love? What if we showed our welcome in such a way that our guests knew that we were preparing for them in the past, enjoying their company in the present, and looking forward to their arrival again in the future? May our welcome have no end and be extended to all.
Prayer: God of the highest welcome, help us signify your extravagant welcome in subtle but powerful ways. May our actions over our words say “you are always welcome here”. Amen.