Wednesday

December 7
Esther Armstrong

Welcome one another, therefore,
just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Romans 15:7

When we were new to Oak Park a man came by one summer day as we worked in our yard. He offered to help us out as he could use some work. This started a year’s long relationship with Carl, an unhoused gentleman, down on his luck, who’d made some poor choices in life for which he was now paying the consequences. Carl was a hard worker. Every few weeks he’d come by to ask if he could mow or rake our yard, shovel snow in the winter, or offer any other help. We came to enjoy his company. Once while eating a meal in our dining room, he noticed our piano and asked if he could play. Turns out, Carl was an organist at his church and at one point had been ordained as a minister. He invited us to hear him guest preach and play.

So, one summer Sunday, our family headed to Chicago’s west side to Carl’s church. With a little bit of awkwardness, uncertain of what we would find, we entered the back doors, hoping to sneak into the back pew and blend in. Well, there was no chance of that. As soon as we walked in, several parishioners immediately ushered us to the front of the church, practically hugging us the whole way down the aisle. The joy with which they welcomed us was something I had never experienced at church before. They wanted to know all about us, about the kids, and were genuine in asking how they could pray for us. It was an amazing experience that we will never forget. We participated in the service, listened to Carl’s sermon and organ music, and joined in the joyful dancing and celebration of music.

I think about that Sunday all the time. How welcoming am I in my home and church life? Do I make an effort to reach out to anyone I meet, with loving arms, like those dear sisters and brothers did for us? As much as I wanted to say yes to those questions, I knew the answer was too often “no”. Paul put it simply. “Welcome one another as Christ welcomed you”. It can be a challenging command, that I hope to obey better and more fully.

Lord, forgive me when I fail to be as welcoming as you ask me to be. Help me to extend your welcome to all with whom I encounter, without condition. Amen.

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