I hope you had a wonderful 4th of July. And I hope you are enjoying these lazy, hazy, crazy (HOT) days of summer whether you are near or far from home. Most of all, I hope, wherever you are, you feel welcomed and loved.
This past Sunday, we heard Jesus’ instructions of welcome to his people, words of radical hospitality, when he says, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes, me and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” We hear these words and recognize that we more often think of ourselves in the position of the welcoming others – opening our homes and our churches and our tables to make everyone feel safe and valued and embraced by God’s love. And frequently, we are. But during these summer months when we are home less, vacationing and exploring far off lands, we can find ourselves on the other side – as ones being welcomed, receiving hospitality.
I’ve mentioned to some of you that as a child, I had the chance to spend my summers vacationing on Long Island visiting family and friends. Whenever I was there, I would frequent the same places – the ice cream parlor at the harbor, the pizza place on the corner of town, and the Italian bakery where my grandmother would send me whenever guests were coming over. And each time I returned to my favorite spots, especially after being gone for months, I would hear the same words, “Laurie (everyone called me Laurie back then), Laurie, You’re back!” This greeting always gave me a sense of belonging; I felt like family, a part of the clan. These words of welcome helped me understand the power of good hospitality, of what can happen when someone gathers us in and invites us to be at home when we are not at home, or have had to leave home, or do not know where home is.
And so this summer, as we are giving and receiving welcome, may we know – and create – places of welcome that help us become something other than strangers to one another and to ourselves. May we learn how to make one another at home in this world.
Welcome home beloveds!
P.S. Here’s one of my favorite summer poems by Mary Oliver.
The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
The grasshopper, I mean —
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?