“God, you are welcome here”
It’s a line often sung in churches, and often prayed. But for people who believe in an omnipresent God – present everywhere at once – what does it mean? What’s the point in welcoming someone who is already here?
Well, there’s a difference between being present, and being welcomed. It’s an attitude thing. Are you acknowledging the person who has come, or ignoring them? Are you engaging with a defensive attitude, a judging attitude, a cautious attitude, an open attitude? Open to them being who they are, which might be different to what you hoped. Open to their thoughts, which might be different to your thoughts. Open hearted to ways their story might change you… that’s vulnerability. And the hospitality of welcome does require vulnerability. You might just come out of the encounter different.
So when you pause in a worship service to “welcome” God, it’s not about letting Holy Spirit in… that’s already happened. It’s about preparing the state of your inner world so that you’re actually open to genuine connection, even if it pushes you and changes you.
“You are welcome here”
“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me”
“Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me”
And perhaps, we can’t welcome God unless we also welcome all God’s children. You soften your heart towards the Spirit when you soften your heart towards the people near you.
Welcome them, even if they’re not who you hoped, even if they think completely differently to you, even if it means making yourself vulnerable to connection and to change.
And don’t claim to welcome God if you’re not willing to welcome fellow humans.