And it’s the same for so many in our world. So many of us are simply looking for a place to be welcomed, a place to belong, a place where they are wrapped in love and care and invited to come in and stay awhile. Welcome and hospitality are huge themes throughout the Bible because it’s what we so long for, and what’s God gives us so freely. It’s also what we are called to give freely to others.
For us today, we think of peace as the absence of war, as anytime there is not explicit violence. But for Jesus, peace meant much more than that. While this gospel is written in Greek, the word Jesus himself would have spoken was “Shalom,” in either Hebrew or Aramaic. Shalom means many things, including peace. But it also means Wholeness. Completeness. Reconciliation. Forgiveness. Right relationships, with others and with God.
Easter is not the end. It is the beginning. It is the beginning of a long journey of faith and discovery – of who we are as redeemed by Christ, of who God is as savior and king and destroyer of death, and of what salvation looks like, not just in the life to come, but here in our world today.
On that cross, two thousand years ago, God lost a son. As the centurion said after Christ’s final breath, “Truly, this man was God’s son.” God’s son died. And Patrick’s words remind me that we don’t serve a God who punishes us with pain, but a God who enters into that pain with us. We serve a God of such extreme freedom and possibility that God was willing to give up a child so that we may be reunited in love
Jesus quickly corrects him. With this act, Jesus is telling Peter and all of us, I came for those who are outside of God’s love. I came for the forsaken. I came for the cursed. Jesus came as God for the Godless.
Today is the first Sunday in Lent. And throughout Christian history, this has been a season of preparation. It is a season that we prepare our hearts and minds and spirits to meet the good news of Easter Sunday.
So when someone asks you for a blessing, don’t look over your shoulder and say, “Who me? I could never do that.” Offer them what you have. Your time. Your ears. Your hands, Your words. Your faith. Go into those dark places with them. God will do the rest.
But all of us have nets that need to be dropped. Because all of us are called by Christ, all of us are called to be transformed.
Jesus and his family made it to Egypt without any home there, without any family, without connections, without the right papers or process. But somehow, they were welcomed in by strangers. They had to rely on people of another land, who were not of their own clan or religion or nationality, and for some reason these people of Egypt made a way for them to survive. They welcomed them with hospitality.
This Sunday we get to hear who this message is for. And we find out that this message is for the Simeons and Annas of the world. It is for those who have waited and hoped for something better, something greater than what they know today. It is for those who have been forgotten, overlooked, and ignored. It is for those who have struggled, and hope that their struggle is not in vain. It is for those who still believe that God sees them and knows them and loves them.