The unpredictability of welcome

Psalms 148, 149, 150 (morning)

Psalms 114, 115 (evening)

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-14

Acts 16:6-15

Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

Our readings today, particularly the ones from Acts and the Gospel of Luke, remind us of the unpredictability of “welcome.” Paul and Timothy find an avid listener and true hospitality in the presence of Lydia and her family-but our reading from Luke depicts Jesus instructing the disciples in the possibility that they will be poorly received at times, and to not take it personally or to linger any longer than necessary, should that be the case.

It’s a long-standing joke that Episcopalians are uncomfortable with the “E-word”–Evangelism. Many of us are survivors of “traumatic evangelism” in other denominations that made it very clear we were unwelcome. So it should come as no surprise that many Episcopalians, by and large, are evangelism-squeamish to the point that even issuing someone an invitation to church feels edgy. We find ourselves at a bit of a quandary at times. For many of us, this church and its progressive, inclusive, incarnational theology has changed our life. We have found within the walls of our sanctuaries a certain degree of acceptance that perhaps we did not find in other denominations or in the secular world–yet we fear rejection or disapproval if our invitations are rebuffed. In our hearts we wish for a moment like Paul and Timothy found with Lydia. In our mind’s eye, we see ourselves being scorned or ignored.

How, then, do we honor our Baptismal Covenant and “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ” when “evangelism” in the traditional sense gives us the heebie-jeebies? how do we move from, in the words of church consultant Andrew D. Weeks, from “friendly fellowship” to “risky hospitality?”

Our Gospel reading provides a bit of insight here. I’m sure those seventy disciples, after hearing Jesus more or less tell them, “You can’t control how people will react to you, and sometimes the reaction is that you’ll be made unwelcome,” didn’t feel really great about their prospects. Yet we are told later that they were incredibly joyful upon their return. We don’t control the joy in this proposition, either. Jesus speaks of the disciples’ authority in his name in this passage, but it’s important to remember that the authority of Christ came from a Jesus who went out of his way to reach out to the skeptical, the quizzical, the misaligned, and the scorned.

If you could create a joyful new ministry in your own parish, what would it be?

Have you ever shared that pipe dream at coffee hour?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

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