"...I was a stranger and you welcomed me…” –Jesus (Matthew 26: 35)
What a difference a welcome makes! Every time I go somewhere and mention that I’m new to the neighborhood, people say “Welcome to St. Louis!” I’ve heard this from restaurant staff when I go in to grab my carry-out order, from my mail carrier, from teachers and staff at my son’s elementary school, and especially from the members of Gethsemane Lutheran Church. As much as I lament the things that can’t be done safely right now—like gather for a potluck feast—I am so grateful for the words of welcome shared by e-mail, Facebook messages, Zoom meetings, and even video messages! Many of you recorded a brief welcome video for me and for my family, so we can begin to meet each other, even from a distance. It’s as though I’ve already visited dozens of homes and also met your house pets! You shared what you love about Gethsemane Lutheran Church and what you love about St. Louis, and some common themes emerged. You love the warm welcome and t
he sense of family in this church (and I know you miss it terribly, not being able to gather in-person for worship). You love working together for social justice. And you love Ted Drew’s (I intend to try this magical frozen custard as soon as the stores are open). What I have noticed: an enthusiastic welcome means you’re really, really proud of something. People don’t tend to welcome another person into something they’re not really proud of. But if you possess a treasure, the wonder of it is too much to keep to oneself—it simply has to be shared. Not out of obligation but out of sheer joy: “You have to check this out!” “This team is the best!” “The history of this place is amazing!” People who deeply understand God’s love can’t help but share it. People who know the riches of grace can’t help but invite others into it. Have you ever been present for a big win at a sporting event, and people are cheering and strangers are hugging each other? I’ve been told that Sharing the Peace during worship is a little like this (I can’t wait to see it someday!). In this time when we can’t safely shake hands and hug each other, be assured that the warm welcome is still conveyed, even through different and creative means. The Holy Spirit is very much moving and active! And Jesus still shows up whenever we welcome a stranger. Thank you for helping me feel at home in a new city during a strange time. I can see ways that God has already been at work and calls us forward to work together.
--Pastor Cheryl Walenta Gorvie