I’ve seen the man around town.
We’ve never talked. He always seems absorbed in what he is doing, and I am moving down the hallway at the Y. I don’t stop. He doesn’t look up. We don’t speak.
Little do I know that he is the man who called months ago and said, “I don’t think I would be welcome in your church because my political beliefs wouldn’t be appreciated.” I told him that I thought he would be welcomed, and that people here wouldn’t let what he believed (or didn’t believe) about politics get in the way of their willingness to welcome him.
Recently, the man who had called months ago asked to meet with me. I welcomed him to my office, got him a cup of coffee (black with no cream), and we talked. I listened. He wasn’t sure there was a place in our church for someone like him. Life had been tough. Battles had been fought. And Jesus had helped him through some terrible times.
I told him, several times, that he would be welcomed. I told him we were about loving all people the way Jesus loved all people.
He stood to go, I asked if we could pray together, and he sat back down. We prayed, he gave me his coffee cup and he walked out the door. The only hitch in our conversation took place when he admitted he was a huge Ohio State fan. (Just kidding. I know we love all kinds...even Hoosiers, Buckeyes, Boilermakers and Wolverines.)
So now, at the Y, we talk.
And I wonder: how will he be welcomed? Will he be noticed? Will he find community and connections here?
“Is it safe?” That is what he was asking. That is what the single Mom is asking as she struggles to raise her two children. That is what the man is asking when he is released from prison. That is what the LGBTQ adult or youth or child is asking. That is what my African-American friend is asking. That is what we are all asking, isn’t it?
Jesus was always welcoming everybody. “Come to me,” he says, “all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) All.
“Is it safe?”
I wonder how we will answer that question.
Maybe you can sign up to help greet, usher or staff the welcome desk.
Or maybe you can take this radical step: in the last three minutes before you enter worship or the first three minutes after the service, look not for your best friends but look around for the person you’ve not met yet...the person who may be new. Notice them, introduce yourself to them, listen to them and ask if you can help them.
That’s the question more people are asking than we can imagine.
What did you lose and what did you find during the pandemic? We would like to know. What did you learn? How will you be different going forward? We would like you to—in a note or a video interview— tell us. We’ll share some of your responses during our sermon series the first three weeks of June: Moving Beyond (the Covid) Exile.
I am blessed to serve Christ with you, and I am leaning into the future God has for us here at First UMC.
First United Methodist Church1203 E. Seventh Street | Auburn, IN email@example.com | 260.925.0885