Think for a moment of a place, or experience, in which you received the most extravagant welcome. What was the occasion? How did it make you feel? Did the extravagant welcome extend beyond yourself to others? On the opposite side of an extravagant welcome, can you recall a time where you were not welcomed? Where you knew you didn’t belong or fit? How did you feel?
We know when we are welcomed for we remember the embrace of others. They have a way of touching our soul. Deep within us, we are held fully in that embrace. That’s the thing about an authentic welcome—you know it with the core of your being. I think that is why the theme song to Cheers was so popular
Sometimes you want to go Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came; You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same; You want to be where everybody knows your name.
There is truth in this song, for it reaches the depth of our human experience. Most have known the feeling of rejection, of not being included or unwelcomed, of being a stranger and hypersensitive to every glance and comment. It is in this environment that humanity has continually struggled. In Jesus’ time, this was equally true. Those deemed unholy were cast out from their community and labeled with words like ‘sinner,’ ‘unclean’ or ‘unholy.’ They longed for a welcome. In Matthew 12:9-14, Jesus is challenged about living by the law and, in essence, interprets the law in light of God’s desire to welcome and heal the division in our world. For disease was believed to have originated from some evil or unrighteous act. Jesus’ response was a healed man and a religious establishment that cared far more about being ‘right’ and missing the point of Jesus’ action—to heal is to give the gift of wholeness. Welcome is such a gift!