(If you’re new with us, this post is part of a series that expands on the previous Sunday’s sermon- there are always things that didn’t quite make the cut, so I thought I would share the ‘leftovers!’)
As “My Bad Church Experience” winds down, we explored the story of Jacob and Esau (click here to listen) as a pattern for hospitality that could reveal the “face of God” (Gen. 33:10). This is what I left out:
When Esau reunites with Jacob, Esau “ran to meet him, embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him” (Gen. 33:4). Only one other time in scripture do we hear of this kind of greeting: The Prodigal Son in Luke 15. There are actually multiple points of contact between the Jacob/Esau saga and the Prodigal, but this is the most poignant for me (Kenneth Bailey explores the connection ad nauseum in “Jacob and the Prodigal”). When the lost son finally returns home to his father, his father “ran and put his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20- Greek translation reads more accurately “fell on his neck”). The connection is so strong that we have to consider the possibility that Jesus was re-telling and expanding upon the Jacob/Esau story.
Jesus infuses a story about a family reunion with a theological revelation about the very heart of God. The brother’s forgiveness is replaced by the father’s (read: God the Father) love and acceptance in Jesus’ parable. It’s God himself who risks everything and welcomes us home! The father in Luke 15 goes even further to secure his son’s place within the family and community. He offers his son signs of identity that unmistakably communicate acceptance of his once wayward son: sandals because only slaves are barefoot, a robe so that everyone who sees him will know instantly that his father approves of his return, and a ring that carries with it the authority of his father. And Jesus follows this emotional reunion (could we describe our salvation as reuniting with the God Who created us?) with a direct challenge to anyone who may be listening: the Father practically begs his older son to participate in the welcome wagon.
Friends, that’s a question that Dayspring must answer. Will our community welcome people as God welcomes us? It’s not the greeters responsibility alone to greet people and make everyone feel welcome. It’s our collective responsibility to find ways to welcome the world to the kingdom of God on Sunday mornings and beyond!