I was driving through DC on Friday, running an errand. As I turned off Rhode Island Avenue onto North Capitol Street, I noticed a church parallel to the service road. It is a Roman Catholic Church named St. Martin's RC Church. I have passed it numerous times before, but something drew my attention to its front door. A banner hung above the main entrance. It is a large white banner with large black lettering, which says: WELCOME ALL SINNERS!
My initial reaction was to stop the car, go up and rip that stupid sign down. I didn't do this of course, as much as my fertile imagination dreamed up scenarios of my successfully doing so.
This is not just a Roman Catholic thing, this approach to life from a negative space, it is rampant in the Protestant world as well, including parts of The Episcopal Church. I think it is matter of where we start that is so important to how we perceive and understand our relationship to God, and through that relationship our understanding of the world.
I won't quibble about the fact that as human beings we all have faults, we all (no matter our age or life experiences) have the ability to grow into being better people. Are some of those traits and foibles in us "sin"? Some most assuredly. But to dwell there seems a bit pathetic to me. By dwelling there it becomes, so easily, self-defeating and focused on self-abuse and self-castigation, and we lose the message that underlies what we read in Matthew today.
And that underlying message is one of an unquestionable love. A love that is open to everyone, no matter what we might think we have done that makes us unworthy. For NONE of us are unworthy: God's love is for all of us. Do we need to strive more towards the kingdom of heaven we hear Jesus preach about? Absolutely. But that striving is so much easier when we approach our relationship to God with God's love in the forefront of our efforts as opposed to the negative and self-defeating approach advocated by that banner above the church door.
Wherever you are on your walk with God, always remember that this unimaginable love is ours. Perhaps a large gallon of white paint to take out the last word on the sign would be sufficient, as opposed to ripping the whole thing down. How does WELCOME ALL sound?
Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.