All Are Welcome Here

All Are Welcome Here

by Rev. Dr. Matthew Williams, Lead Pastor

Some years ago, Joy and I were with her dear cousin, Kacie, outside of Springfield, Missouri. We were driving into the Amish country. Joy and I lived near traditional Mennonites in South Carolina, but we had never met Amish people or had seen the Amish country. So we drove outside of Springfield about 30 miles and found ourselves on a country road behind a horse and buggy.

Kacie was wearing a bright pink wind suit, and Joy and I were in coats and scarves. I mentioned to Kacie as we were driving slowly, “I wonder what it’s like, you know, to be Amish—to live this kind of life?” Well, being who she is, she said, “Let’s pull over and ask this guy on the buggy.”

What? We thought. Sure enough, she flagged down the guy on the buggy and asked him if he knew of anyone who would let us see their home. Reluctantly, he said with a little smile, “Maybe. Follow me, I am going to my blacksmith’s house.” We followed him. When we arrived, he told us to wait in the car. He got off of his buggy, and he and the blacksmith talked shop. The blacksmith stared at us a bit, but finally invited us out of the car. We explained ourselves: “Sir, we were just driving along and wondered what it would be like to meet an Amish family and tour an Amish home.” He stared at us for a few moments, then smiled at us, and took us on a tour of his dairy farm, showed us all of his turkeys, gave us a lesson in iron works, invited us into his home and introduced us to his family, showed us everything in the house, and then he sent us on our way.

We never learned the Amish man’s name. Yet, we will never forget how he treated us.

He invited us into his home,
Introduced us to his family,
Showed us around the house,
And sent us on our way.

His actions mimicked the actions of Jesus that we see throughout scripture. Jesus welcomed total strangers in ways that made them feel right at home. Even when Jesus offered challenges to people, he often did it in the form of a parable. He gave them something to think about and to reflect upon.

The Amish family truly gave us something to ponder. They were supportive of one another, and their affection for one another radiated from their faces. When the mother of the household escorted us to her screened porch, where she had covered the food with cloth in between meals, her demeanor shined brightly with pride over her delicate creations. She then lined up the children like the Von Trapps’ offspring, introducing them to us from oldest to youngest. The children then ran and laughed (they may have been laughing at us!) as they were seeing intimately a kind of people they don’t see much of—especially Kacie in the pink wind suit!

Similar to this family, we, the Church, invite people into our home on the corner of Park and Duval streets. Through our worship of God together, we introduce people to our family and to our faith. Through our numerous ministries, we show people around our house, and from the Eucharistic table, we are sent on our way to be the hands, feet, and body of Jesus in the world. And all are welcome here as we continue to be built into God’s house. As the hymn writer, Marty Haugen, faithfully pens:

Let us build a house where love can dwell
And all can safely live,
A place where saints and children tell
How hearts learn to forgive;
Built of hopes and dreams and visions,
Rock of faith and vault of grace;
Here the love of Christ shall end divisions:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place
Let us build a house where prophets speak,
And words are strong and true,
Where all God’s children dare to seek
To dream God’s reign anew.
Here the cross shall stand as witness
And as symbol of God’s grace:
Here as one we claim the faith of Jesus:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place
Let us build a house where love is found
In water, wine and wheat:
A banquet hall on holy ground,
Where peace and justice meet
Here the love of God, through Jesus
Is revealed in time and space;
As we share in Christ the feast that frees us:
All are welcome, all are welcome
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place*

There is no doubt that our local community, nation, as well as nations around the world, are longing to experience something real and meaningful in their lives. In the midst of war and turmoil, people have an innate sense that we are created for more than harming one another. As followers of Christ, we believe that this meaningful life comes from the liberty and freedom that are found in Jesus the Christ. This is why we worship and this is why we serve. We long for others to experience the same experience that makes us who we are. Deep down inside, we know that Christ liberates us to a joyous life and gives us strength when we experience our most difficult situations.

Trinity United Methodist Church is a community of persons that offers the love of God in Christ Jesus to the world. When people drive by our beautiful church campus, I pray that the Spirit of God radiates in a way that leads people to ask this question: “I wonder what it’s like, you know, to be a part of Trinity United Methodist—to live this kind of life?” And then may they say: “Let me pull over and ask.”

*Haugen, Marty. All Are Welcome, GIA Publications. 1994. Reprinted with permission.