Dear St. Paul’s family,
This past Sunday, we heard Jesus tell two parables. The parables tell of a shepherd who was attending to 100 sheep. One got lost. The shepherd went to great lengths to find the one that was lost. The second parable tells of a woman who had ten coins, but lost one. She, too, goes to great lengths to find the lost coin. In both cases, the “finder” has a great celebration when s/he finds what was lost.
These stories are considered the heart of Luke’s Gospel, for they illustrate for us how radically different God’s world is from our world, God’s ways are from our ways. After all, many would say that the shepherd’s actions are very irresponsible. A shepherd’s primary job is to take care of the flock. But this shepherd leaves 99 sheep exposed to go and find one stray sheep. Well, that must have been one special sheep, which is precisely why Jesus tells this story. He wants everyone to know that in God’s eyes, every single living creature is special, even those who find themselves separated from the flock or lost.
The reality, though, is that there are far too many people out there who don’t know that they’re special. They feel like they aren’t worthy enough to be part of the flock. They feel like God and/or the church has abandoned them. There are children who feel unloved and there are adults who feel forgotten. There are people, young and old, who have slipped between the cracks of our various systems. They feel like the world has given up on them. If you and I are to live life on earth as it is in heaven, we are to treat all of our brothers and sisters as Christ would have treated them. Our God is a God who searches out – not a God who turns God’s back.
These parables bring to mind the importance of a church community. While so many of the St. Paul’s community feel a sense of belonging and a sense of connection, it’s important to keep in mind that there are those who come to our church who are looking for a place to belong and connect. Each of us is responsible for making them feel welcome, inviting them to coffee hour, and/or showing them around our beautiful facilities. We don’t want anyone to feel like we don’t care for or notice them. The ministry of noticing, welcoming, and including belongs to each of us. It is a way that we reflect the radical welcome of Christ.
So, the next time you see someone in church and you don’t recognize her, or you see someone standing alone at coffee hour, make a special effort to make her feel welcome. Open the door for him to feel included. A sense of belonging is a great gift, and it is yours to give away.
See you in church,
The Rev. Charlie Dupree
Rector, St. Paul’s Church