Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
‘Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name’;
and again he says,
‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people’;
‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him’;
and again Isaiah says,
‘The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope.’
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
‘All, yes ALL are welcome in this place’. So reads the sign on an A-board by the door of our local parish church. Echoing the words of Marty Haugen’s song, it spells out something of the breadth of Christian welcome and hospitality. Jesus taught it; in our Romans passage today, St Paul repeats it. In welcoming one another we are welcoming both the individual themselves and Christ.
It is clearly important to welcome people into our churches. Over a decade ago, the URC launched an initiative called Radical Welcome. The information pack began with a definition by Stephanie Spellers:
“Radical welcome is a fundamental spiritual practice, one that combines the universal Christian ministry of welcome and hospitality with a clear awareness of power and patterns of inclusion and exclusion.”
So, Christian welcome is potentially something much deeper and more profound than just saying, ‘Hello’. What is more, I think it should spread far wider than our churches into other aspects of our lives and communities too.
Henri Nouwen puts it this way:
‘ . . society seems to be increasingly full of fearful, defensive, aggressive people . . . inclined to look at their surrounding world with suspicion, always expecting an enemy to suddenly appear . . . But still – that is our vocation: to convert the hostis into hospes, the enemy into a guest . . .’
We are called to welcome others because Christ has welcomed us. Our challenge is to discover how to live that out in today’s world.
 Stephanie Spellers (2006) Radical Welcome: Embracing God, the Other, and the Spirit of Transformation (page 11)
 Henri J M Nouwen (2003) Reaching Out: The Three Movements of The Spiritual Life in Henri J M Nouwen (2017) You Are The Beloved (page 53)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit, and be guided to welcome others into the love and peace of God’s embrace. Amen
The Rev’d Daphne Preece, Retired Minister in East Midlands Synod