We have, as a modern western culture, moved so far away from so many great traditions that could, in my opinion, change the way people view and treat each other. Many cultures still have the holy kiss, also known as the brother or sister kiss which signified a desire for there to be a peace and a blessing upon those you meet. Combine this with the traditional greeting of Shalom aleichem – peace be upon you, and the response, aleichem shalom – unto you, peace and it becomes a very personal and intimate greeting of hearts. There is still that type of a greeting, sort of, in our culture but it is guarded at times and was interrupted by the pandemic where people were fearful to come into contact with one another. Relationships and our mental health took a terrible hit with the latter. Greetings are a very complicated thing in western culture. For example, there are rules for the pastoral hug, one arm only and side on. There is also the wave – we just met usually from a distance, the handshake – formal and non-binding on first meeting, the awkward handshake to fist pump – this is where one anticipates and yet is mistaken and, well, it’s complicated. Upon researching this topic, there are hundreds of different styles of handshakes with just as many meanings but the one I like the best is sometimes called the hand hug or the arm wrestle grasp. This is the one where each come together, grasp each others hand firmly and pull the other into their personal space for an embrace. This is usually reserved for the closest most trusted friends and family. This is, in my opinion, the modern day version of shalom aleichem.
Where am I going with this? Well, I could go on for pages defining just handshakes and embraces but I want us to consider the most personal of spaces and how we approach the welcoming. I know that not all are comfortable with being so open and vulnerable to greet another with a hand hug embrace at the door of their house or even the church. It is understandable that some are uncomfortable with this but the question is this; do we embrace those who come into the church, the gathering of Christ followers, with the same exuberance that Jesus welcomes us? There are so many out there who fear coming into the circle of faith, into the church, for fear of judgement or retribution yet we were given an example of the pureness of His embrace in Luke 15:20.
So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.
The son was fearful of judgement and retribution yet the father sat there watching for his return and when it happened he may have shouted “Baruch haba leveytnu: blessed is the one who comes to our home”.
We put up fences to guard our property and keep our families safe, we have attached garages so we can get into our homes without fear, cameras stand sentinel to dissuade trespassers and our property is chained down or locked in sheds so it does not go missing. There is enough fear out there that vulnerability is shielded by distrust and guarded with emotional walls. Jesus says in Matthew 11: 28 “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Here is the challenge for us all; on the door of the church, at the entrance to our homes, in our hearts is there a sign that says “Baruch haba leveytnu: blessed is the one who comes to our home”.
This Sunday, January 8, will celebrate New Welcomings. We would love for you to join us either in person or online Sunday at 10:30 AM MST.
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We look forward to seeing you this Sunday.
Our Mission “To live the love of Christ”