He Welcomed and He Welcomes

  • Sermon for July 14, 2013: "He Welcomed and He Welcomes"
    • Introduction before skit: Today the gospel will come alive with the help of some of our Zion members.  Our theme today is “welcome” and this is a story from the gospel of Matthew.  It shows us how Jesus truly welcomed people just as they were.
  • (During the service, there was a dramatization of Matthew 15: 29-38)
  • Jesus did more than show kindness to individual people here and there.  Instead, wherever Jesus went, he created an environment of welcome where all people had the freedom to be who they were – and to be loved and appreciated and welcomed.
  • Today – we are invited to think about what it means to be a family of faith that really lives into our guiding principle: “WE WELCOME PEOPLE JUST AS THEY ARE.” (say these words as a congregation several times)
  • These are more than beautiful words that have been put together by our council, congregation, and task force.
  • This is central to who we are.
  • As a congregation, we are invited to let this seed of welcome be planted and grow deep roots in our hearts.  It is exciting to imagine how this seed will grow.
  • GOOD NEWS: We don’t need to recreate what it means to "welcome" - Jesus shows us how to do it.
  • What will be the ingredients in our welcome recipe as a family of faith?   
    • There are lots of ways to be a church who welcomes people just as they are.  Today we are invited to be specific and think through how we are already doing this – and how we want to do this going forward.  How will this guiding principle take roots in our hearts and minds?
  •  Jesus shows us a lot in this gospel text: There seem to be about 4 ingredients in his welcome recipe. 
    • 1.  ACCEPTANCE
      • Jesus ended up on that mountain expecting a little quiet time.  What does he get?  A gigantic crowd of sick people.  Broken people.  People who were ostracized by everyone else. 
      • Again and again and again – Jesus accepted people.  He crossed every kind of cultural barrier.  When all the religious people said: “DON’T DO THAT” – he did.
      • To be a church that claims to welcome people just as they are – that means accepting each other, just as we are.  We’re all broken.  Our wounds, our hurts, our scars – might not be as evident as in the skit.
      • What does it look like to be a church where people accept each other?
        • Share example of 8th grade confirmation boys
      •  Wherever Jesus went, he created spaces where people could be real and vulnerable without needing to apologize for it.  He welcomed people as they were.  They could bring to Jesus their deepest hurts, wounds, and stories – and he was fully present with them. 
      • In our congregation, where are the spaces where we can be real and vulnerable – without need to apologize for tears or feelings?  I see it in Bible study groups.  I see it in quiet conversations. 
      •  Jesus wanted people to know that they could be real with him.  We are the body of Christ whether we’re in this building or not.  Wherever we go, Jesus invites us to be people who are real – and people invite others to be real and vulnerable. 
      •  People didn’t have to wear masks with Jesus.  And people don’t need to wear masks here either. 
      • Our third ingredient is compassion.  It is central to a culture of welcome...regular expressions of COMPASSION and kindness!
      • Jesus says it in today’s text: I have compassion for these people.  When Jesus saw brokenness, he didn’t turn away.  He helped. 
      • As we formulate what it is going to mean to “Welcome people just as they are” – we can definitely be thinking about how we do share compassion and how we aspire to share compassion. 
      • Where are the deep needs of our community?  How about our world?  Welcoming is about so much more than saying hello when people enter our doors.  It’s about sharing the compassion of Christ wherever we go. 
      •  The same compassion that Jesus felt when he saw sick people – is the compassion that the Holy Spirit plants in all of our hearts at the moment of our baptism.  It’s in there.  How are we using it?  How WILL we use it? 
        • Share story of 3-year-old during VBS
    • 4. COMMUNITY
      • Jesus didn’t just send the people away after he healed them.
      • He had them sit down and eat.
      • Wherever Jesus went, he seemed to be connecting people.   He knew how important community was – and we know how important community is today.
      • As a congregation, what are the ways we are providing opportunities for community building – both inside these walls and outside.
      • What are the ways we’re connecting?
  • Today’s gospel text reminds us that the call to welcome stretches far beyond the walls of this church – we are called to create a culture of welcome WHEREVER WE ARE
    • The gospel lesson doesn’t take place in a church
    • It takes place on a hill out in the country
    • We are called to welcome people just as they are – in this church and outside this church – and wherever life takes it.
    • Jesus showed us how.
    •  May we have the courage to follow his lead.  


  1. My friend Carolyn sat in a chair all night last night in her dying mother's hospital room. Finally, at 11am this morning, a wonderful 95 yr old mother was welcomed into Heaven. She came as she was --- worn out body, very tired, a beautiful spirit surrounded by her beloved 5 children.

    1. Thanks for sharing this, Pete. I'll be holding Carolyn and her family in prayer this week.

  2. Thanks so much for posting a bit of the sermon from this Sunday since I was not able to make it.