A few weeks ago, the Wednesday morning Bible study members were talking about welcoming and said, "It's great to talk about it, but how do we do it?" How can we welcome the poor, the immigrant, the homeless, the mentally ill, and the disabled into our lives when we're not sure how to welcome visitors into our worship? Where do we begin?
Well, I have some good news. It looks like we made it. This church has survived six years of the most severe economic crisis since the 1930's, without losing a pastor, without sacrificing programs, and without selling properties. We've done far better than a lot of nonprofits. And while we're not out of the woods, we're not in exile, either. So I don't have to tell you to build houses and plant gardens in Babylon. Let's rebuild a life here in Willow Glen. And listen while I preach to you a future with hope.
But that raises some questions for the rest of us: have we remembered Jesus in our wills? Have we thought about how we can leave a legacy of love that will give life to others in Jesus' name? Have we considered how we can share our faith with our family not only in our life but also in our death? A word of advice: don't count on your kids to remember Jesus with your money. If you want them to do this in remembrance of Jesus, write it down.
The poor are folks we need to get to know. So, participate in a "Change the World" weekend. Volunteer at Sacred Heart. Be a tutor at Blackford School. Get trained to serve on Open Table. Plan to go to Mexico in 2015. In the meantime, advocate for affordable housing right here in San Jose. And protest the cuts to the food stamp program. Whatever you do, be prepared. When you welcome the poor into your life, you will invite discomfort. You will be challenged. You'll have to make some sacrifices. But I promise you that when you face your fears, you will grow in faith. And you will receive a blessing. When Jesus said that we would always have the poor with us [Matthew 26:11], I guess he knew how much we needed them. We still need them to bring the good news to us. We can only pray that God will help us to be good news for them.
What we have forgotten is what the Hebrews kept forgetting, that we are all resident aliens in this land. All of us came from someplace else. Even the Native Americans. All of us are "other" to someone else. But that's not a bad thing, because our experience of being "other" is the very foundation upon which we can build a life of being neighbor.
Last week, I preached a sermon about how we have to welcome the Word of God into our lives before we can welcome anyone else. But can we really welcome the Word unless we can welcome our self, in all of our honor and dishonor, our saintliness and sinfulness? We have to be honest, we have to be real with ourselves, if we want God to be real for us. And that means that we are going to have to take a good long hard look in the mirror. Sounds easy, but we are really good at looking and not seeing what there is to see. French writer Malcolm de Chazal said, "Monkeys are superior to men in this: when a monkey looks into a mirror, he sees a monkey." But we have a habit of looking into a mirror and seeing everything but who we really are. We may see the person our parents or our spouse or boss want us to see. We may see the person we thought we were going to be or the person we failed to be. There are times when we look into the mirror and say, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the biggest loser of them all?"
Well, one way to think about the process of salvation is to picture it as a house you have to enter. John Wesley used to compare salvation to a house. And today I want you to imagine that God lives in a house in Willow Glen, one with a very inviting porch. Picture it: It's dark and starting to get cold one night, and you find yourself standing on the sidewalk staring at this house.