As we get further and further into the Lenten journey, the words of Stephanie Spellers are working on me. Just in case you haven’t picked up your own copy of Radical Welcome yet, I want to share an excerpt from pages 46-47!
God wants to touch the places where we are brittle and make us soft. God yearns to release the latches on our locked doors, and to open us once again to the fresh air and surprising movement of the Spirit. One way that we experience this stretching and opening is by fully opening our doors and hearts to the people and cultures and perspectives on the margins of our communities. Our prayer is to be radically welcoming to God. We prepare by radically welcoming the other, who is Christ’s living presence among us.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Even for those who dropped their nets and followed Christ, the spiritual practice of staying open to God and open to the other was far from intuitive. In Acts 11, some circumcised believers confronted Peter, frustrated that uncircumcised Gentiles had been accepted as part of the community. To ease their anxiety, he relates the story of his own dramatic conversion and opening. Once, in a dream, he saw unclean animals spread on a sheet coming down from heaven, and heard God commanding him to kill and eat the beasts. He dutifully replied, “By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.” The reply came from heaven: “What God has made clean, you must not call profane” (Acts 11:8-9). At that very moment, he awakened to find several Gentiles at his door, begging him to come and baptize a Gentile household in Casearea. He knew the message from God was about freedom: the freedom to go to this household, the freedom to trust that the Holy Spirit was already there, the freedom to be as radically welcoming as God.
And so it is today. In practicing radical welcome, we ask God, “What would you have us to do? Who would you have us embrace?” And when God presents us with a holy opportunity to be stretched beyond our comfort—either by welcoming a particular group or by allowing that group’s culture and perspective to transform us—when we leap forward in faith, like Peter.
And like that great apostle, we will never be the same again.
During this Lenten journey, I’m giving thanks for the opportunity to surrender my assumptions and presumptions to God. I’m grateful that I serve a God of mercy and forgiveness. I’m resting in the knowledge that I can once again confess, repent and turn toward God and others. And I dare to hope that I will never be the same again!
See you in worship!