There was a delightful story last week on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday about the surprisingly unconventional ‘welcome’ that is posted on the doors of the Anglican Cathedral of Coventry in England. This Cathedral was sadly bombed during World War II and was reconstructed following the war. It’s strikingly modern architectural style incorporates elements of the former bombed ruins of the old Cathedral. It is a profound place of pilgrimage dedicated to reconciliation and peace. It’s welcome to visitors exemplifies this theme in a wonderful and whimsical way:
We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, widowed, straight, gay, confused, well-heeled or down-at-heel. We especially welcome wailing babies and excited toddlers. We welcome you whether you can sing like Pavarotti or just growl quietly to yourself. You're welcome here if you're just browsing, just woken up or just got out of prison. We don't care if you're more Christian than the Archbishop of Canterbury or haven't been to church since Christmas 10 years ago. We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet and to teenagers who are growing up too fast.
We welcome keep-fit moms, football dads, starving artists, tree huggers, latte sippers, vegetarians, junk food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you're having problems, are down in the dumps or don't like organized religion. We're not that keen on it either. We offer welcome to those who think the Earth is flat, work too hard, don't work, can't spell, or are here because Granny is visiting and wanted to come to the cathedral. We welcome those who are inked, pierced, both or neither.
We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down their throats as kids or got lost on the Ring Road and wound up here by mistake. We welcome pilgrims, tourists, seekers, doubters and you.
In its whimsical fashion, this delightful ‘welcome’ cuts to the very heart of the call to discipleship that we have heard in today’s gospel. While some might still be laboring under the misconception that discipleship with the Lord demands the prerequisite of perfection, we need only look at the first 12. They, like all of us, were very imperfect with even one of them completely turning his back on the Lord in the final days of his earthly life. Yet, the invitation stands for all whom God earnestly desires to be part of his family in loving solidarity with him and one another.In a world and nation that more and more experiences the factional divisions that fragment the human family, the Christian faith stands in polar opposite to the factional camps and ideologies that separate rather than unites in solidarity and reconciliation.
And so, my friends, may our gathering in this holy place where all are welcome be a sign of that oneness that brings delight to the Lord, who is indeed the joy of our life