The following welcome is printed each week in the bulletin of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Community in Daytona Beach, Florida. It reflects the kind of welcoming community every congregation should be. It does not say that all the choices reflected in the welcome are good choices, and it says nothing about what is and is not sinful. It just says that all are welcome to worship at Our Lady of Lourdes, along with the rest of the sinners that gather there each week. What is right and what is wrong will most certainly be a part of any church’s message, and certainly a part of being a child of God– but that is not where we begin. We begin with an invitation, and this ‘welcome’ has it right– ALL ARE INVITED!
We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, y no habla Ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-borns, skinny as a rail, or could afford to lose a few pounds.
We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli, or like our pastor who can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re just browsing, just woke up, or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s Baptism.
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 soccer moms, NASCAR 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 or you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like “organized religion.” We’ve been there too.
If you blew all your offering money at the dog track, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.
We welcome those who are inked, pierced, or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid, or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts… and you!
The Gospels of Luke and Matthew record parables of Jesus in which he compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a wedding feast. In both parables there are those who refuse the invitation, but in both ALL ARE INVITED.
Luke 14:15-24 — When one of those at the table with Jesus heard this, he said to him, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, `Come, for everything is now ready.’
“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, `I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
“Another said, `I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
“Still another said, `I just got married, so I can’t come.’
“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, `Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
“`Sir,’ the servant said, `what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
“Then the master told his servant, `Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’ “
From a similar parable as recorded in Matthew 22:8-10 — “Then he said to his servants, `The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.”
Lord God of our salvation, it is your will that all people might come to you through your Son Jesus Christ. Inspire our witness to him, that all may know the power of his forgiveness and the hope of his resurrection. Amen. –-Lutheran Book of Worship