Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me
welcomes the one who sent me. – Matthew 10:40-42
I’ve just finished a 20 week Clinical Pastoral Education course. As part of the course I did a couple of hours a week of volunteer visiting at Flinders Medical Centre. I went in not as Pastor John, visiting Lutheran patients, but just as John Strelan, another member of the pastoral care team, visiting patients who had indicated no affiliation with the Christian faith, or any faith. I found this quite challenging. I have been in many hospitals before, but always with my title ‘Pastor’. It was very different being at Flinders without an official title, surrounded by hundreds of highly qualified doctors and nurses and allied health staff all with important jobs to do and, here I was, just a visitor. In this environment my biggest challenge was figuring out why I was there; what did I have to offer? Did it even matter? Would I make any difference?
Jesus once said to his disciples: “Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me”!
It took me many weeks to realise those amazing words of Jesus applied to me and my hospital visiting. I didn’t know what I had to offer those people lying there in their hospital beds. I couldn’t heal them. I couldn’t build long term relationships with them. In many cases I couldn’t even cheer them up. After a while I realised all I could do was to be there. Just be there. And be me. I was just one of the ‘little ones’. No fancy title. No great words of wisdom to share. Just me. And, I just had to be. That was enough.
And, by being there I received a lot of blessing. Sometimes it was just a smile, that’s all it took to say, “Welcome, I’m glad you’re here.” So, I sat and listened mostly, but sometimes I just sat. I was there. And, I was surprised by the number of conversations that came around to faith and church and God. I didn’t initiate it, that must have been the Holy Spirit, I was just there!
“Whoever welcomes you welcome me”. That’s Jesus’ promise. An amazing promise. For each of us. So, all we need to do is to be available to be welcomed. We can practice that amongst ourselves, but we can’t stay in our little Christian enclaves. We have to be in the world. Engaged with the world. Engaged with the people of the world, so whoever welcomes us, welcomes Jesus, so the kingdom of God continues to come near.
Grace and peace
Pastor John Strelan
Pentecost 4, 2017