Everybody is welcome! Everybody is welcome to our churches. That’s what we want people to see and recognise, but we also know that that’s not always the case… One way to help our congregations to think about this is the excellent Everybody Welcome course, which is written to help enable everyone to welcome newcomers, to help consider how the building and activities can be more welcoming and, above all, to enable people to respond to God’s welcoming love.
We’re doing this course as our Lent course this year, which we are having alongside a sermon series on Everybody Welcome. It’s a basic principle and one we need to get right (or at least, less wrong!). We started it the week before Lent, meaning that it finishes the week before Palm Sunday, and that sermon 4 is on Mothering Sunday. It’s heavily based on the sermon series that can be found on the Everybody Welcome site, although I have added some details and extended it by a week!
Everybody Welcome sermon series
- God’s heart for welcome – 2 Corinthians 5:16-6:2; Luke 15:11-32
The parable of the running, welcoming father (which is what the parable is about, not the prodigal son) shows the radical nature of God’s welcome for us. The father runs to the son as soon as he sees him, shedding his honour and dignity as he does so. How do we respond to this? How can we show the same sort of welcome?
- Welcoming the outsider – Deuteronomy 10:12-22; Matthew 25:31-46
We are called to show God’s welcome in our actions. Who around us needs our practical welcome? The running father did things to show that the son was welcomed. This week we hear how God himself was welcomed through the practical help of his followers (Matthew), and how God calls us to respond to what he has done for us by changing our actions to reflect that welcome (Deuteronomy).
- Hospitality – Luke 7:36-50; 1 Peter 4:7-11
We are called to be hospitable and use our gifts to support one another. The sinful woman used the little that she had to welcome Jesus, to anoint him (the Messiah, the Anointed One). Jesus welcomed her and forgave her, restoring her to her place in the community of God’s people. We are called to rely on the strength that God gives us to love each other deeply.
- Welcome to all – Isaiah 49:13-16; Mark 10:13-16
Jesus welcomes children and blesses them, showing God’s welcome for those who are not regarded by other people. God, who loves us more than a mother, has engraved us on his hands, welcomes each one of us. The life and death of Jesus shows God’s welcome to each one of us. Like Jesus, we too are called to show God’s welcome.
- Belonging to the family – John 15:1-17; James 2:1-13
We are all part of the family of God and everybody is welcome! We are called not to show favouritism, instead we are called to show the love of God. And to do that, we need to know that God loves and welcomes us, and ask God to help that love and welcome spill out of our lives into the lives of those around us, and into our shared life as a church.