"A Gospel Welcome" Sermon and Capital Campaign Kick-off

The Rev. Mary E. Davis

~~Sunday, September 20, 2015
Proper 20 Year B
Capital Campaign Kick-Off Sunday
Mark 9:30-37
In the name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen. 
When I was a little girl I used to get so excited for my dad to get home from work at the end of the day. So much so that I would camp myself out on the bottom few steps of our staircase and just wait there for him. And as soon as he came through the door, I would literally pounce on him, and jump into his open and loving arms. It was the kind of welcome that said ‘you are the most important person to me right now, and I am overjoyed to be in your presence.’ 
Which is exactly the kind of welcome that Jesus is talking about in this morning’s gospel when he says to his disciples, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” The Greek word “welcome,” used 4 times in this one sentence, is not just some lukewarm greeting or a passive “hello,” or propping the door open for somebody. Rather, “welcome” in this case – in the case of the Gospel - literally means receiving someone joyfully into one’s open and loving arms. A “Gospel Welcome” is like Allison and Ted walking into St. Paul’s after years of being away and being greeted by Betty Williams. A “Gospel Welcome” is like waiting on the bottom step and pouncing on my dad when he walked through the door. 
But, as Jesus usually does, he takes this idea of welcome a step further than that.  You see he’s not just describing this type of welcome with someone you know or already love. He’s describing a welcome like this for a first century child. Now it is easy to get all sentimental when Jesus mentions welcoming a child (ahh, aren’t they cute and we love them) but don’t miss his point. Because children in that society were not respected or cherished, and while they were valued because they would eventually carry on the family name, help with household chores, or provide for their aging parents, none of that was a given. Far from it. They had to survive childhood first, and until that happened, they were considered to be the lowest of the low, worse than even a slave. And yet that’s who, Jesus says, we should be welcoming with open, loving, and eager arms; those who are hidden or hurting, those who are excluded, those who are considered outsiders by society’s standards. 
Now truthfully, this joy-filled image of an all-embracing God – a God who welcomes, and a God who instructs his followers to do the same – is what our capital campaign is all about. And it’s important to know and to understand that the Gospel stories we hear, week in and week out here in church, are still being written. The “Good News” of God in Christ – which is what the word “Gospel” means – did not end when Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John put their pencils down. The “Good News” of God in Christ continues with us and through us, today. It has been shaped and formed by those who have gone before us, it is proclaimed by us today, and it will be carried on, through the Grace of God, by the generations to come.
Our Gospel call is to welcome all people without limitations, to have a “faith without limits.” And I’d like to thank Brian and his mom, Mary Ann, for sharing their lives with us, and thank producers Vern Oakley and his son Gibson, who have told their story and our story, and our Gospel call in this video. I pray that we can live into our call, and joyfully welcome all people with a “Gospel Welcome!”