Robert and Maureen McQuillan write:
Recently we were invited by good friends to join them, their family and others on the special occasion of the dedication of their first child.
We had had the pleasure of marrying this young couple last year in a beautiful outdoor setting: now came this extra joy of seeing their son meaningfully blessed indoors – in a church by a special lady pastor with a great message and a challenge to guard his future spirituality.
But there was something else that caught our attention – prior to the service beginning, a warm welcome was extended to everyone on the three large auditorium screens – left, centre and right. We saw that church in a different light from how we see many that have little idea how to really welcome people.
How did we know the welcome was to everyone attending? The word Welcome kept repeating in a variety of languages. We doubt if any visitor or regular attender was missed.
Welcome – a warm word meaning ‘A kindly greeting to one whose coming gives pleasure.’
Seeing Jesus’ welcome
We were reminded of two biblical incidents – especially one that involves Christmas. Luke 2 tells of Joseph and the expecting Mary arriving at Bethlehem only to discover there was no room available at a certain inn.
Verse 7 reads, ‘She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.’
No room! Think in terms of ‘No welcome, no place, no room for Jesus.’ Room – this is topos, a location, particular spot, place.
Interestingly Jesus used this word topos in John 14:3 when he assured his disciples that he was going to his Father to prepare a room, a place for them! By inference, he who had no room prepared for his birth has ensured there’s a place prepared for everyone accepting him as Saviour – at our ‘new’ birth.
What a day that will be when we hear his welcome of ‘Well done good and faithful servant.’
That eternal place is really going to be something fantastic. There’s no way we can fully comprehend it just now while we’re still in this earthly body with its limited mindset. We can but let our imagination run wild, dream a lot, even recall some precious old hymns and choruses such as Eliza E Hewitt’s 1898 number When We All Get to Heaven with its splendid words:
Sing the wondrous love of Jesus, sing his mercy and his grace;
In the mansions bright and blessed, he’ll prepare for us a place.
When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!
With our ‘spiritual mind’s eye’ let’s see it in faith now and rejoice. Sinners saved by grace alone and our acceptance of Jesus as our Saviour, we’ll be most welcome there!
Seeing church differently
Every church is meant to be a place of welcome for everyone.
In December’s Connect (the Apostolic Church Australia onliner, sadly no longer existing), we ran several interesting articles along this theme… For example, budding author Anna Kosmanovski wrote a timely piece Church – It’s the Place to be for All Generations!
Our good friend Steve Cross in Time for a Change boldly said he saw himself as a man with a second chance, and part of a great local church.
Maureen wrote about the importance of seeing our children as having great potential for Jesus and ministering in the anointing in The Very Centre of Kingdom Life.
Kids in Ministry International friend Becky Fischer pointed out that Jesus himself sees kids as so valuable and has need of them.
Then there’s another interesting aspect of that word topos is scabbard – the sheath into which a sword or dagger fits tightly and perfectly and won’t fall out of. Churches must ensure that their people – both new and longstanding regulars – ‘fit neatly’ feeling secure, acknowledged and cared for. That those with talents are encouraged and used wisely. This too is an important facet of that word ‘Welcome.’
Disabled Tait Berge, Church Relations Mephibosheth Ministry Director, wrote along these lines too. His Anglican church welcomed him with open arms from the beginning of his going there. They saw the man, not someone in a wheelchair, that his pastor ‘says his congregation wouldn’t be complete without my being part of our body.’ Churches that don’t welcome the disabled are lacking, believes Tait. He tells about the importance and advantages of welcoming such, and about his new book, In the Accessible Church.
Perhaps it’s time to think of church in fresh terms. Less mumbling about some matters that aren’t really all that important and to start concentrating on what really counts in gaining more for and in our churches. Such as making room for people usually shunned by society and recognising the incredible potential in our children and young people.
And of course being grateful for the wisdom and experience of our seniors, especially ministers who are often cast aside disrespectfully by some thoughtless young people.
Seeing the bigger picture
Many times in life people feel downcast because of certain difficulties. Times when thoughtful, caring people who see the bigger picture can encourage because they see things in a different light.
We also think of the amazing opera singer Paul Potts. It was Maureen’s birthday last month and we went to see the brilliant movie One Chance which tells his story – that of a kid with an outstanding voice who could only think of singing opera from when he was so young. Other schoolboys mocked him, his father and others including a most famous opera singer couldn’t see how he could make it.
Adulthood offered some promises but mockery after mockery, putdown after putdown, accident after accident and loss of voice seemed to doom him from ever seeing his dream fulfilled.
But the love of his young wife, her standing by him, her belief in him and her seeing things as they could be encouraged him to win a UK talent contest that gained him victory and renown. Not a Christian movie but a great one and full of godly principles!
Http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=Hzgzim5m7oU&vq=medium is about a disabled man in need but getting nowhere. Until a thoughtful young lady comes by and lovingly helps others see things differently on his behalf. Check out how she makes a difference.
May we all be willing to welcome all sorts of people not only into our churches, but into our hearts and help them to achieve much through our seeing the bigger picture.
Oh, yes, about Christmas time and Jesus, may we never forget that it’s his right as Lord to have a topos – a special room, a definite spot, a particular place in our lives. And not just at Christmas time but always!