Let the little children come to me, or ‘suffer the little children’. There was a marked contrast between the attitude of the disciples and the attitude of Jesus. It is very easy to judge people and cause unmeant pain by inappropriate reactions.
Rebecca’s testimony spoke of the experience of welcome and safety, knowing instinctively she could trust her child to these people. We are called to be trustworthy welcoming people.
John 14.2 Jesus speaks of preparing a place for us. We are called to ‘incarnate’ or live out what we see in Jesus. The church is not just for us, but as a place to express Jesus’ welcome.
In our homes when we welcome people we make preparations, we clean, rearrange furniture, prepare the best food, put on our best smiles, and generally put ourselves out so that our guests may ‘feel at home.’ Part of our calling is to prepare our churches as places of welcome for all. Recognising that the people who are coming may not and indeed cannot ‘fit’ into our nice neat Christian categories of behaviour how can we prevent them from feeling excluded by circumstances they can’t change?
A ‘bad atmosphere’ will rapidly undermine any other preparations that we create, while a healthy, happy vibe will draw people in. How do we avoid holding on to the kind of resentments, unforgiveness, backbiting that so destroys the fabric of community?
Zephaniah 3.17 The remnant of Israel could be forgiven for feeling that God had abandoned them, that their sin had cut them off from God’s love for ever, yet the prophet reminds them of God’s unfailing love, ‘he delights in them’ and rejoices’ over them with singing. When we realise the extent of God’s ‘delight’ in us it can transform the way we see ourselves and those around us. Knowing the welcome of God makes it easier for us to show love and welcome to others.
In the Baptism service we enact symbolically ‘dying’ and ‘rising’ in Christ. Are we a people willing to die to ourselves (to the things that we love and cherish) in order that others may rise to life in Christ?
- Think back to your first visit to a church (it might be Christ Church or not). What was that experience like? Was it easy to make friends? Was it easy to get on to the ‘inside’ to find out what was going on?
- Rebecca spoke of how she felt safe and welcome coming into the church. What can we do as individuals, as a home group, as a church to foster that sense of safety and welcome?
- The ‘prevailing atmosphere’ is key to welcoming. What creates good atmosphere and what can damage it? Are there things we need to challenge, in ourselves, in other groups or in the life of the church?
- Think about welcoming guests into your home, how might we apply some of those principles practically in the life of Christ Church, and what do we personally need to do if this is to happen?
- In baptism we symbolically ‘die to ourselves’. What might we need to ‘die’ to in church in order that others might feel welcomed?
- What do people actually want to experience when they come into church or meet Christians?