Rector’s Letter – September 2017

“Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him – that she is a sinner.’ ” [Luke 7.39 NRSVA ]

Dear folks,

An open welcome to all is such an important element in the witness and mission of the church.

In last October’s issue I spoke about how welcoming our glass door is. The Young Church were so impressed by the message it gives, as well as our newly painted bright red outer doors which look warm, friendly and lively, that with David they wrote a brilliant song which they sang for us so beautifully just before the summer break (see article on page 11).
Our beautiful doors and our open door policy give a clear message of warm welcome to all. Our visitors book is full of kind and lovely comments from people from all walks of life, and all over the world; Indian Bishops, Australian builders, Italian school girls (see entries 21st August), and many more. But welcoming people who are considered disreputable can cause judgement, criticism and condemnation. Jesus experienced that many times: “ ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him – that she is a sinner.’ ” Would we be as delighted to see entries and comments in our visitors book by drug dealers, prostitutes, Syrian refugees, and homeless folk? Perhaps you would because you are kind people, but not everyone would be.

While I was actually writing this very letter, a man came to the Rectory door (which we sensibly keep locked) asking for help. It’s a common thing especially where a minister’s house is near the church. He wanted me to give him the train fare to Perth and pay for a night in a guest house there. But I recognised him from a visit a couple of years ago and remembered that I had helped him then only to discover a day or so later that he had not been entirely honest with me (quelle surprise!). Also it was around then that the alms box in the church had been broken into and money taken.

When my visitor realised that I was not willing to assist this time his polite demeanour quickly faded. He marched off leaving me to stew in my self-conviction of hypocrisy heaped upon me by my own hand through the letter I was in the process of writing. When Andrea returned from work I told her about the visitor. She immediately suggested that I check the alms box in the church, but I explained that I had watched him leave the premises without going in the church.

However I went to check the church and was surprised to discover that yet again someone had tried to break into the alms box, albeit unsuccessfully this time. I realised that our visitor must have tried that first and looked in all the cupboards, before having the nerve to come to the house and ask. Needless to say that I duly reported the incident. The man was seen later at the train station, and I suspect received a ride in a van and one night’s free accommodation courtesy of Police Scotland.

So we are having to think seriously about our commitment to keep our church doors open. Keeping open doors, physical and metaphorical, will always present us with dilemmas, the possibility of being criticised for the kind of people we welcome, and the risk of being taken advantage of by them.

But Jesus always kept an open-door policy. Everyone from commanders of the occupying forces, people whose life choices were morally questionable, legalistic religious leaders, and pagan mothers, and prostitutes, were all able to approach him directly and receive great blessings.

At the Radio Rainbow summer club we sang with the children, “Jesus, never, never, never, turned anyone away”. Some walked away because of the challenge he laid before them, ‘it’s time to start living for God’. They either needed time to reflect on that or simply weren’t willing to change the way they were living. Others embraced his challenge and found new life. But his door was always open to all.

God bless,