Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth… Will you pray with me please?God, grant me the serenityto accept the things I cannot change;courage to change the things I can;and the wisdom to know the difference…. Amen. A lot of you probably know that little prayer, often called The Serenity …
Jesus sends his disciples out into the world with this promise: Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.
Hospitality is the mark of the church; we receive everyone as though they were Christ himself— it is our business, it’s what we do.
In my house, near the guest rooms, I have placed two framed prints, sayings I found posted in other places I visited as a guest.
One is from the Mennonite Guest House in Nairobi, Kenya, where I stayed for a few days on a mission trip; it reads, first,
Let the guest sojourning here know that in this home our life is simple. What we cannot afford we do not offer, but what good cheer we can give we give gladly.
If we really are going to welcome everyone as Christ, then it will cost us something.
If you are going to care about the needs of others, it’s going to take your focus off yourself.
You’ll very likely have less time and resources and comforts to spend on yourself.
We make no strife for appearance sake.
In other words, we don’t try to make ourselves look better than we really are; we don’t hide our faults and foibles here, or our simplicity— we aren’t perfect, but we are forgiven.
Know also, friend, that we live a life of labor; therefore, if at times we separate ourselves from thee, do ye occupy thyself according to thine heart’s desire.
When we welcome you into our congregations, we welcome you into our mission.
We live a life of labor for the Lord— our task is to build a church where everyone is welcome and the good news of the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord is proclaimed.
Please excuse us if we are consumed with the task of welcoming yet more others.
We will not defer to thee in opinion or ask thee to defer to us. What thou thinketh ye shall say, if ye wish, without giving offense.
Which means, we won’t take offense, even if your opinions are offensive to us.
We recognize we don’t have all the answers, but we welcome all questions; “this is a safe place, a place of faith where it’s okay to bring your questions and doubts.”
What we think, we also say, believing that truth hath many aspects, and that love is large enough to encompass all.
Which is to say, if you stick around we will witness to you, we will tell you about the most important thing in our lives.
But we believe that begins with listening, because God might be speaking to us through you.
The other saying comes from the old guest house at the Benedictine monastery near Snowmass, Colorado.
It is a selection from The Rule of Saint Benedict, which governs life in the monastery; it reads:
If a pilgrim monk come from distant parts, if with wish as a guest to stay in the monastery, and will be content with the customs he finds in the place, and do not perchance by his lavishness disturb the monastery, but is simply content with what he finds, he shall be received, for as long a time as he desires. If, indeed, he find fault with anything, or express it, reasonably, and with the humility of charity, the Abbott shall discuss it prudently, lest perchance God sent him for this very purpose.
Even if you come into this community of faith and complain about everything and start telling us what we are doing wrong, we are to listen to you— the abbott in particular, or in our case, the pastor— as though it was Christ himself speaking to us.
Paying attention to you keeps us from getting too comfortable and closing ourselves off from outside influence; it keeps us open-minded, not only to our guests, but to God.
Probably the most well-known saying of St. Benedict is his admonition to Welcome everyone as Christ.
Hospitality is what a church does; we welcome everyone as Christ – it’s our business.
But it won’t do for us to sit back and just wait for guests to show up.
When Jesus says, Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me, he’s not suggesting we stay home and clean the house.
He’s sending us out there to look for people who haven’t heard the good news of the grace of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So this is also our business as the people of God: We are to become as good guests in the world as we are hosts to the world.
If we are to welcome everyone as Christ, then we are also to bear Christ’s welcome everywhere we go.
When we are a guest, or wherever we live among others, we are to be Christ to them.
Welcome everyone as Christ, but don’t save it just for your church.
Welcoming is an attitude; an openness to receive every child of God’s love, an expectation that Christ is present in you, going with you to everyone you meet, …and waiting to meet you in the most unexpected guests.
The great invitation, the welcome Christ gives you, is to become that kind of person, the person you may not be by nature, but that Christ calls you to be by the power of his Spirit.
Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. I have been a Christian all my life.I grew up going to church and Sunday school,went through confirmation,attended bible camp.I am well-trained in theology,thoroughly …
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
This is what I love about Easter: Jesus rises from the dead and appears to his followers, they see him, they touch him, he talks to them and eats with them, he forgives them and blesses them; and forever after they become witnesses to the resurrection of the dead in Jesus Christ our Lord— …but some doubted.
Every single Easter story in the Bible has fear and confusion and doubt.
It seems as if it is impossible to have faith in the resurrected Jesus without also having doubts— and that … that’s okay.
Believers worship Jesus, and they have their doubts, and one does not have to cancel out the other.
Doubts are uncomfortable and nobody wants them; and of course, Jesus wants you to put doubt aside and have faith in him.
But doubt is okay, doubt is not a problem for Jesus.
Certainty—that’s hard as nails to work with; certainty is like trying to turn a rock into bread.
But doubt—doubt is pliable; Jesus can work with doubt— in fact, God can create faith out of doubt.
Indeed, God has to—it’s not much of anything, doubt; but it is the only thing God has to work with.
It’s not much to work with, doubt; but it’s okay, doubt is not a problem for Jesus, Jesus can work with doubt— God can create faith out of doubt.
How does God do that?
When the disciples cannot separate their faith and worship from their doubts and fears, what does Jesus do?
Does he get mad? Does he lecture?
“Come on, you guys! I’m counting on you! What more do you want? You can see me, you can feel me. So just stop it—believe in me or else! Believe in me right now, or just forget the whole thing. Believe in me or I’m leaving.”
No; he almost seems to ignore their doubts altogether.
Matthew says that when the disciples doubted Jesus didn’t walk out on them—he came closer, he came near them.
That is God’s response to doubt: God who created you, seeks you; God who created you for a relationship with himself comes looking for you.
You have your doubts, and God answers with covenant, with promise, with the renewal of God’s promise to be your God—in spite of your doubts.
And the invitation—no, the call— for you to be what God created you to be: to be in relationship with God, to worship and to obey, to give up being for yourself alone and to be for God and to be for God’s creation.
They doubted, Matthew says, and when they did, Jesus came to them and said to them, “All authority has been in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Jesus answers your doubts with trust— he trusts you with this great commission: Jesus’ answer to your doubts is to call you back to your God-given purpose.
If, as Bishop Eaton said on Holy Trinity Sunday; if “creation is God’s decision not to look after himself but to focus God’s energies and purposes on the creation,” then Jesus answer is not to blame you for your doubts and fears, or even to worry himself very much about them— Jesus just isn’t very interested in your doubts.
But Jesus is concerned about what you will do with your life, and so Jesus responds to your doubts with a call to move beyond them and find your purpose in life: in worship and obedience to Jesus’ call, to go out there and be for God and for God’s creation.
Jesus does not debate with you about your doubts; he embraces you, doubts and all. When we are faithless, he remains faithful (2 Timothy 2:13), for God has committed Godself to us, and God cannot deny God’s self.
God created you with a purpose, to be in relationship with him, and God will not give up calling you back to your purpose again and again.
When you have your doubts and would rather give up and walk away, Christ pursues you, for you are his.
God, coming at you: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
God, baptizing you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
God, sending you away, into the world, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
One God, the Holy Trinity, the name in which you live and move and have your being; the name of the one who created you, and the one who saves you, and the one who keeps you; one God, the holy Trinity, who will not leave the world alone.
This is the promise of Christ to you, and to this broken world:
I will not let you go; I am with you always, to the end of the age, doubts or no doubts.
Why do I even care? I always thought I would find a way out of this. I never wanted this job, and I always thought that sooner or later something else would come up, another door would open, and I’d take it. I’d get out of this, if I could, leave the flock behind, let …