Willkommen, Bienvenu, Welcome. Velkommen til gudstjeneste. Velkommen til Nordisk Gudstjeneste. Welcome to Nordic Service.
Welcome, welcome is a warm and welcoming word. It a word that meets and greets us and makes us feel… welcome!
It greets us, when we arrive for a dinner party with good friends.
It is a word that meets us, when we visit our dear family or enter our childhood home.
It is a word that meets us, when we travel all the way from California with SAS or Norwegian Airlines to Norway, Sweden or Denmark, - and are greeted as we show our passports: Velkommen!
Velkommen/welcome taste like coming home, coming to an invited and open place and being greeted and treated with open arms, big smiles and a sense of belonging.
Living away from our families and native countries, many of us have welcomed our families and friends here in our homes! We pick up at LAX, we conquer the traffic, we cook many meals, we clean the guestrooms, we make room in our calendars, in order kindly and joyfully to say: Velkommen, welcome – how we have been looking forward welcoming you!
Even Jesus Christ talks about inviting and welcoming. In today’s Gospel as the arguing disciples quarrel about who is the best, the first and the greatest among them, - Jesus once again had to remind the disciples about basic Christian behavior, or basic Judeo-Christian values as presented and lived by Jesus.
“Whoever wants to be first, must be last of all and servant of all.”
As we learned last Sunday: to have a humble, kind, positive and forgiving attitude – and today Jesus ads another component to the four pillars of humility, kindness, positivity and forgiveness. He adds a welcoming attitude.
“Whoever welcome one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
We strive to be a welcoming church. We strive to make people feel welcomed and seen.
We strive to be the Church of Christ – and thus be welcoming, open, tolerant and not only welcoming but also inviting. We are very very good at being welcoming, once you have come to our open door and found your way.
But what about being an inviting church?
It is said that the average Lutheran (of which the Norwegian Swedish and Danish group falls into and easily lives up to the Lake Wobegon characters of good-looking men, strong women and children above average) well it is said that the average Lutheran invites someone to church, to worship, once every 23 year!!! It that’s not bad enough, research also shows that it takes 3 invitations before the people come……
As Lutherans we tend to believe that it is enough to be a welcoming church, to open our doors wide open and greet people with a happy Velkommen, when they show up,- while we should strive to an inviting church too: inviting our neighbors, our colleagues, and reluctant family members to come and worship with us. Most of us have come to church the very first time, because someone else has brought us or invited us. And having been invited into the church, we become those who now invite others.
Honestly: have you recently invited anyone to church? All of Danes can sit back comfortably and say yes today: as we invited all the Norwegians and Swedes to come!
But seriously: when did you last invite somebody to church? And more over: have you recently worshiped in another church another denomination or religion? Here all the Norwegians and Swedes can relax – you are here today amongst the Denomination of the Happy Danes.
Maybe, we find it intimidating and out of our Nordic Comfort zone to actively invite others to church? Maybe we are just lazy and content with the ones who already sits in the pews? Maybe we simply accept the cultural norm that church and society are separate matters?
In the process of being an inviting church, it is crucial that we put over selves in the place of the guest, the stranger, the outsider too. It may be helpful to visit others places of worship and being aware of what it feels like to be the outsider – that might make us better hosts and more sensitive to strangers and first comers.
As it is with our church, so it is with most churches: there are many doors through which one can enter the community of the church. The front door of worship is one, the there are also side doors: Summercamp, concerts, dinners, Language Classes, Scouts, Julemarked, etc.
We are all in need of a home. We are all in need of community and a place to belong – and it must be a place where we sense something worthwhile is going on, where we can both receive and give. Jesus encouraged us to be church and community. He encouraged us to be welcoming and inviting. May we be bold in our inviting and welcoming as a true Christian Community.
In our Final Issue of Kirkebladet, we printed a Churchy Welcome adapted from The Coventry Cathedral Welcome. This is a welcome and an invitation to come, belong and feel both invited, welcomed and home.
“ We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, widowed, gay, confused, rich, comfortable or poor.
We extend a special welcome to wailing babies and excited toddlers.
We welcome you whiter you sing like Placido Domingo or quietly growl to yourself.
You are welcome here if you are “just browsing” church shopping, just awoken or recently released from prison.
We do not care whether you are a regular Sunday service attendee or have not been to church since Christmas ten years ago.
We extend a special welcome to those over 60 who are not yet grown up and to teenagers who are growing up too fast.
We welcome the fit and trim, the no so fit, the not so trim, soccer moms, football dads, baseball kids, starving artists, aspiring actors, tree huggers, latte sippers, vegetarians, junk food eater and all in between.
We welcome those in recovery and those still addicted.
We welcome you if you have problems, if you are down in the dumps, do not like organized religion or do not have a care.
We welcome those who work too hard, who do not work, who cannot work, who have worked, those who cannot spell, those who do not feel well or simply came because grandma wanted to visit.
We welcome those who are inked, pierced, both or neither. We offer a special welcome to those in need of prayer, who were spoon fed religion as children or got lost on the freeways and wound up here by mistake or by happenstance.
We welcome pilgrims, tourists, seekers, doubters, believers, Norwegians, Swedes, Americans, Danes… and you.”
We strive to make the Danish Lutheran Church & Cultural Center a place of peace and serenity. A place of refuge and quite reflection, A place where laughter and smiles abound, and hugs and handshakes are shared in fellowship and friendship and faith.
We strive to be an inviting and welcoming church, just like Christ called us to be.AMEN