One week ago, I arrived in Enid, Oklahoma to serve with the Central Christian Church as their new senior minister. I am 1,300 miles from the people who know me best in eastern North Carolina. I have yet to preach my first sermon here, officiate my first wedding, or speak at my first funeral service. I have not led a mission trip, created a new ministry, taught a Bible study, or even offered a blessing for a meal in the fellowship hall. I have only visited two people in the hospital.
However, I have been welcomed here. I have been accepted here. I have been unconditionally loved here. Although I am but a stranger here, people have fed me and have offered me something to drink. I have been embraced as family.
This is church. This is real church, for this is grace. We love others, not because they love us, but because God loves them. We welcome others, not because they have done something to deserve our welcome, but because this is the way God loves and welcomes all of us. In Christ there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, family or stranger, insider or outsider; for all are one.
As members of the Church, we are united, not by what we have done as Christians for God, but by what God in Christ has done for us. We are not united by our belief in God, our faith in God or even our love for God. After all, our beliefs are shallow, our faith is weak, and our love for God is oftentimes indifferent. We are united by God’s passionate love for us and by God’s unwavering belief and unfailing faith in us to be the hands, the feet and the voice of God in this world.
As the church, let us continue to be a community of grace, by welcoming all people to the Lord’s table as God welcomes us: as an Oklahoma church has welcomed a North Carolina pastor who has done absolutely nothing to earn his place.