Weekly Meditation - August 10
Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. (Matthew 10:40)
Do you know what it is like to be welcomed as if you were the Christ?
In January of 1991, Wendy and I spent a month in the African country of Ghana with a group from Lancaster Seminary. Hosted by the Evangelical Presbyterian church of Ghana, we spent our time immersed in the culture. We attended festivals, visited former slave castles, toured schools, and joined in worship services that went on for hours. The days were long and hot, the food was often different (spaghetti sauce with peas?), but the experience was wonderful.
One weekend while we were there, we were sent out to local communities as 'ambassadors' of sorts. I spent the weekend with a church pastor and his family in a very small, very rural community where I was welcomed as an honored guest. I was even taken to meet the mayor who insisted we have a drink together. I don't know what this liquor was, but I know it was very special to be invited to share it with him and I know I slept very well that night!
The pastor who hosted me lived in a small house provided by the church with his wife, mother-in-law, and several children. It was at dinner Saturday evening that I learned what it meant to be truly welcomed.
Because many of these rural communities are very poor, any kind of meat at a meal is a rare luxury. However, we were told that because of the culture of hospitality it was likely some type of meat would be served and it was important that we accept it and eat it. This family made a huge sacrifice for me when they served me this wonderful fish dinner and insisted that I have the largest share. I had a hard time convincing them I was full as they kept heaping food upon my plate.
On Sunday morning, I was once again given a royal welcome as I joined the small congregation for worship. There was lots of music and dancing, just like our little church, and I was the guest preacher. As I shared my sermon in English, one paragraph at a time, my host pastor would translate it for the people into local dialect of Ewe (ah-way). They laughed and clapped and shouted Amen and at the end each member of the congregation shook my hand or gave me a hug with smiles from ear to ear. Again, I was overwhelmed by their welcome.
As I think back on this experience 30 years later, I realize something even deeper. Yes, I was given an extravagant welcome and treated like royalty. But before they ever gave me such a warm welcome, they accepted me. Despite our differences of culture, race, wealth, language and more, they first accepted me and saw me as a fellow child of God.
Could Jesus have also said, "Whoever accepts you as you are accepts me"? Can we learn to accept each other despite our differences and see one other as beloved children of God? If we do, we all just might have the chance to discover how it feels to be welcomed as though we were the Christ.