"I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command." - Deuteronomy 18:18
One of the three points of my church's mission statement is "Welcoming All." Maybe yours has a similar commitment. We work hard on ours. Probably you do, too (please tell me you do; we need your church to survive).
I am convinced that this is what God wants us to do, but I sometimes think we might do it for the wrong reason. Or at least for only half of the right reasons. Mostly, we talk about the importance of welcoming people in terms of those who might be out there wandering in the wilderness, those who might be wounded and in need of balm or hungry and in need of real food, those who have never heard about the deep beauty of life with God. We talk about it in terms of what we have that they might need. And of course that's a good start.
There's another good reason to welcome all, though: enlightened self-interest. I think at least half the reason to welcome all is that you never know which passerby might be a prophet. You never know which might have something from God that will heal you, or save you, or balance the budget, or change you forever, or bring you home. For that matter, given that God has promised to return one day (and given that so many missed it the first time around), one of the people standing outside those big doors of yours and wondering whether to come in could be God.
Can you really afford to not welcome her?
God, let us welcome people because they need it, even when it's hard. But let us be smart enough to welcome people because we need it, too. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is the Pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church, Syracuse, New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.