Life is complicated. Tasks, challenges, opportunities, and information are bombarding us all the time and we deal with this overwhelming flow by using filters. Rather than looking at all jobs available, we filter down to the ones in the area we are interested in, or pay what we hope to get, or are closest to us. We filter down class options to the ones that will help us get the future job we want, or that we think we will do well in. We filter our relationships, paying more attention to people that give us a feeling of warmth and connection, or people who have a skill, style, or personality we admire. Very often we filter tasks, opportunities, and relationships to those that seem easiest. We are not necessarily lazy about it, but physical and emotional energy is precious, and we guard it by using it on the easiest things and on things we value the most.
Last month I wrote about how feeling like we belong (in church and in the world) is so valuable. Feeling disconnected and isolated can make it hard to participate in a group, and often makes a person feel guarded, or afraid of being judged. I also wrote we are more like to experience a feeling of belonging only when we let that guard down, and embrace that we are created well by God, and believe that even if not everybody “gets us,” that we are still beloved and do belong. Today, I would like to challenge us to examine how we help others feel THEY belong. If all of us are waiting for someone else to welcome us into a place of belonging, to make the first move, we will all wait forever. It helps to remember that Jesus himself calls us into ways of belonging to God and belonging to each other.
No one has to earn a place in the community of Christ. We may not know each other as well as we could, but we all belong here. Once we accept that, and invite the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us (I am seriously asking you to pray for this to happen,) we can turn our attention to the people around us, in church and in the world. What neighbor will you bless with a hello, or a smile, or a question to invite a conversation? That serious looking person sitting alone may seem intimidating, but may just be sad or uncomfortable and aching for friendly gesture. That person who is a different age, or race, or is differently dressed may have a word you need to hear or be a connection that will turn out to be a gift. I am not saying it will always go well. Your effort may feel awkward or be refused, and that is okay. Just the act of reaching out in hopeful and willing obedience to God’s call to love others is rewarding and plants a seed in both you, and the person you reach out to. The more obedient we are to God, the more we grow in connection with God and in the power of the Holy Spirit. As more of us are obedient to God, the more connected and powerful we become as a congregation. The early church in the book of Acts believed in Jesus and they followed his teaching and example because of that belief. Their reputation of being so powerful in love and the Holy Spirit made the church grow in astonishing numbers as the wealthy and the poor, the powerful and the vulnerable were attracted to their caring community. Could choosing to extend a welcome to someone you don’t know well or feel awkward around do something good in your life? Could it increase your hope, joy, power or faith? Could it grow our reputation as a community that loves God, uplifts people, inspires hope and grows disciples? We won’t know unless we try. Let’s set down our guards and let go of our filters for who we want to welcome. Let’s trust that God has a purpose for us, and for the people God brings into our lives. Let us trust that there is room for us all.