May 1, 2018
As a church, we welcome everyone, no matter what they believe, where they are from, who they love. “Welcoming” is key to making us a loving community that can be safe for everyone.
As Christians, in fact, we hold “welcoming everybody” as a shared value. And we hold ourselves responsible for acting on that value.
How do we know that welcoming everyone is something Jesus taught us? Look no further than Luke 19:1-9:
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So Zacchaeus ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus, because Jesus was going to pass that way.
When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So Zacchaeus hurried down and was happy to welcome him.
All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.”
Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham.”
Now It’s Our Turn!
On May 5, we will be the ones who go to a parade and invite people to our home (our church). And we’ll have a rollicking good time doing it!
Following the Northampton Pride March (in support of the rights of LGBTQQI people), First Church will invite anybody in the community to please come and join us for dinner. Because it’s also Cinco de Mayo we’re going to be having all kinds of tacos and toppings..
At the dinner, our choir will sing — as will the St. Andrews choir, the Hampshire College choir, the Hampshire College Bow Ties (an acapella group) and the Pioneer Valley Gay Men’s Chorus.
May 5 will be an evening that is playful, fun and open to the whole community, and where we sing together songs of liberation and songs of joy and songs of love.
Children will make crafts. Anyone can dress up in silly costumes and get your
Something We Learn From Jesus
As important as it is to welcome everyone, this is only the first step. The key next step is to build relationships with people, especially people from groups we may have little direct experience of.
One of our shared values at First Church is the belief that every human, exactly the way they are, has a spark of God inside them. That spark isn’t determined by who they marry or what color they are or what language they speak — or by even the religion they profess. That spark of God is something that they inherited as a sibling of Jesus.
And when we act on our shared values I think we’re at our best. The ideas of compassion, love, outreach and welcome — all of those things are at our core, are who we are called to be and who we are when we’re doing our best work.
So, the night of May 5, we will act on our shared value of welcoming neighbors and strangers — feeding them, singing with them, making crafts together and sharing our faith as an action of welcome.
Core Values of First Church
During the next few months I’ll talk about shared values, the core values of who are we.
We’ll explore our understandings of the essential ethical values that we share as Christians — values like:
- Treat each other with fairness and respect;
- Care about and look after others;
- Right wrongs;
- Be bold and fearless in protecting those who need our protection.
While we’re at it, we’ll notice that those are the same things we teach our children. And they are the foundation of the character education we’ve been trying to teach our children for some time.
In a society that often falls short of living up to those values, we sometimes need to remind ourselves of them. We need to re-engage with some of our basic understandings of how to be Jesus-following Christians and decent humans.
I can’t think of a better way to start reminding ourselves of these values than just to invite everybody to come eat with us!
They tell me, at the end of the May 5 dinner, after this wonderful hour of music and singing and joy, that we’re going to close with “We Shall Overcome.” Notice that the song is not titled, “I will overcome.” Why? Because none of us get to overcome until all of us do.
That’s a core value we can all really hold onto. That’s one of the values that Jesus taught us!
— Blessings, Rev. Pam