“All are Welcome” Lectio Divina reading

A few months ago, before Laura B.’s time serving on the congregational CORE Council came to an end, she shared with the group a devotional. I’ll probably get the background story all wrong, so I won’t mention it here, except to say that Laura was using a type of devotional reading called “lectio divina” – “divine reading.”

I’ll spare you all the details about what lectio divina includes or what it’s meant to be. For the curious among you, I direct you to this Wikipedia entry. Our devotion was kind of a modified version of this – a shorthand version, if you will. We took a look at the text of the hymn and discussed words, phrases, key ideas that jumped out at us.

To refresh your memory, here are the lyrics:

1. Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live,
a place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive.
Built of hopes and dreams and visions, rock of faith and vault of grace;
here the love of Christ shall end divisions:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

2. Let us build a house where prophets speak, and words are strong and true,
where all God’s children dare to seek to dream God’s reign anew.
Here the cross shall stand as witness and as symbol of God’s grace;
here as one we claim the faith of Jesus:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

3. Let us build a house where love is found in water, wine and wheat;
a banquet hall on holy ground where peace and justice meet.
Here the love of God, through Jesus, is revealed in time and space;
as we share in Christ the feast that frees us:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

4. Let us build a house where hand will reach beyond the wood and stone
to heal and strengthen, serve and teach, and live the Word they’ve known.
Here the outcast and the stranger bear the image of God’s face;
let us bring and end to fear and danger:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

5. Let us build a house where all are named, their songs and visions heard
and loved and treasured, taught and claimed as words within the Word.
Built of tears and cries and laughter, prayers of faith and songs of grace,
let this house proclaim from roof to rafter:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place!

(Text and Music: Marty Haugen in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, Hymn #641)

In our CORE Council meeting, we made it through all 5 verses, but in our Town Hall meeting, we spent more time deliberating – so much so that we wound up taking TWO Town Halls, just to make it through verse 2!  It was a wonderfully fruitful exercise.

Here are some of your reflections on those devotional times:

On that first meeting (5/17), we had a small number of homeless folks worshipping with us, and one of them – a delightfully deep and thoughtful Christian man – stayed for the Town Hall afterward. He shared with us that he profoundly felt the “All” in “All are Welcome” in this place. He felt seen and appreciated, and he commended the congregation on allowing him space to voice his opinion.

This spoke to someone else’s reflection on the line about ending divisions. The conversation went ’round to making sure that when we say “all,” we must really mean “all,” not just “some.” If divisions are ended, they are ended.

Someone else said that it also needs to be more than just that all are welcome, but that all are equal. The table of the Lord is the one place in the world where we all come with empty hands – so nobody has a leg up on anyone else. We are truly in the same boat.

To that end, someone else commented on the line “all can safely live.” We talked about physical safety as something we need to consider, but we also talked about how this congregation is a safe place emotionally/psychologically. One member commented that his family lives on property in a neighboring town that is owned by and borders a church of a different denominational background, yet he comes to THIS congregation because he knows that he won’t be judged for having doubts and questions.

On the second meeting (6/14) we could pretty strongly hear music wafting up from our Building Use partners who worship in our basement Fellowship Hall in the time immediately following our worship service. This group is a non-denominational congregation consisting primarily of folks from the LGBQT community – some of whom struggle (for good reason!) with the traditional church, but who feel safe and welcome worshipping in the building we share. We reflected on this and the blessing that those folks bring us as we contemplated the idea that “All are welcome in this place” as we ALL “claim the faith of Jesus.”

In light of that, one member expressed appreciation that our Church (and our congregation) practices Open Communion.

Someone mentioned the line about words being strong and true. This line made them think of our new Town Hall structure, which they mentioned is a work in progress, but a positive step in increasing a communication that has been lacking among congregants. People are feeling a greater sense of involvement.

I had preached a sermon that day on how putting on Christ was like that movie They Live – in which the main characters put on a new set of glasses that allowed them to see the world in a new way, through a new and clearer perspective. The line from the hymn about being “here as one” in spite of our differences gives us new perspective – how we can love one another through those differences, and how those times when we don’t appear to be “as one,” it’s OK.

Someone else commented on “daring to dream God’s reign anew” in light of having survived a great deal as a congregation over time – and not only surviving, but growing in Christ! All of this is amazing, and it leads us to keep the door open, so that we’re not just hanging on to this transformation story for ourselves, but are inviting others – sometimes folks who are very different from us – to share the story.


So, these were two of our “First 15” faith formation moments. I think we may have gone 5 minutes over 15 each time, and even so, we still only made it through two verses! This says a lot of things, I think – it says, for example, that the music we choose in worship is an important source of theological formation, especially when we take the time to really reflect on the lyrics, and when we take time to put them into the context of our own Life Together. It says that our congregation enjoys this kind of theological work. It says that our congregation, while far from being perfect, is a place of Safety for all kinds of people (even if we tend to look very similar on the outside), is a place where we strive to welcome people – and not only welcome them, but also realize that we are equal and connected in ways that we can’t even explain, and it is a place where the love of God, through Jesus, is revealed in time and space. Do we have work to do to become MORE welcoming, MORE inviting, MORE inclusive? Absolutely! But we also need to realize that God has blessed us abundantly, and guides us deeper and deeper into relationship with him through Jesus: relationship with God, with one another, with those around us.

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