Epiphany is a season of signs and symbols, and I want to reflect on that in some pretty down to earth ways.
“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the Glory of God.” (Rom. 15.7) Jesus gave us a new commandment to love one another as he loved us, and, while I believe that remains our highest goal, it also seems to me to be out of reach even for the best of us. But what we can do is to welcome one another, just as Christ has welcomed us. The record of Jesus welcoming is somewhat alarming in that he didn’t seem to have very high standards. Just about anyone who came into his presence was welcomed: lepers, tax collectors, notorious sinners, elite scholars, lawyers, good friends, total strangers, even the crowd that came to arrest him in the garden. Not everyone accepted or responded warmly to his welcome, but all were offered it nonetheless. Maybe we are unable to love as Christ loved, but we can welcome as he welcomed. So now the questions becomes, what signs and symbols do we erect that say You are Not Welcome!?
I wonder if we could work on those first, and I don’t think we need to get overly theological about it. These are ordinary, practical things. For instance, some years ago on our annual sojourn to our favorite winter retreat we decided to look for the Episcopal Church in a nearby community. We had the address and new the town, we could even see the building sitting back in a small grove of trees, but there was not the slightest hint about how to actually get to it. Obviously only those in the know were welcome there. A nearby SDA church, on the other hand, had a large inviting driveway framed by a large, but tasteful, sign of welcome. I have no idea what went on in either one of those places. The point is that signs and symbols of welcome are a first step and we can all take it. I know there is a lot more to it than that, but why not start with the simple basics and go from there.