Welcome to What?

We’ve talked about the separation of church and state. We’ve talked about other religions.  We’ve talked about sex and we have talked about politics.

Now: we’re going to talk about Ephesians!

Stick with me for a minute. I promise: this will pay off.

I can’t be certain, but I think the first Open and Affirming church that I ever visited was Christ Congregation, the UCC church in Princeton, New Jersey. (This would have been late 1999 or early 2000). They had displayed, just inside the front door, a statement I now recognize as O&A boilerplate, probably something a lot like the statement on the back of every Sunday bulletin here at Plymouth: We welcome into full membership and participation in all aspects of our church life persons of every race, language, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, physical or mental ability, economic or marital status, and faith background, and we affirm and celebrate all loving and committed relationships.

I remember feeling perplexed, offended…and just a little intrigued. Never had I ever encountered a church that was not only willing to welcome all people but actually put up a sign to brag about it. Many years later, I would sit in the sanctuary of Plymouth Church and listen to Transition into Ministry Associate Minister Anthony Livolsi preach a powerful sermon about the way that church welcomed him.

Plymouth is an Open and Affirming church. The welcome we extend to all people has the power to heal deep wounds. I cherish the work of welcome.

But welcome is not enough. At some point we have to ask: welcome to what? Why are we here? What is this all about? What does God want from our lives?

Ephesians invites us to wrestle with these questions.

Earliest Christianity was all about welcome. Specifically, it was about welcome Gentiles (i.e., non-Jewish folk) into a relationship with the God of Israel. The Apostle Paul went around establishing new communities composed of Jewish AND Gentile Christians –an act of radical welcome.

Scholars suspect Ephesians was intended to be a circular letter sent out to these newly formed churches. You were not welcome. Now you are welcome. We’re glad you’re here. Now: what’s next?

That sounds like a question worth exploring.

See you in church!



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