Our Savior's Lutheran
Salt Lake City, Utah
Joel and I have walked through the doors of many different churches over the past 50 years. From the time we attended The Lutheran Bible Institute until present day, we have worshiped in Cathedrals to country chapels~ all houses of God with one purpose. A place to worship Jesus. Most are friendly, some not so much, and those few that hold a rare quality that people seek.
All the pulpit hopping Joel has been engaging in lately has had me thinking back on one of those churches that stood out as having the rare quality of making you feel you belong when you step in the door . While Joel was attending the University of Utah in Salt Lake City we found a smaller Lutheran church a good 25 minutes by Interstate from our apartment near the campus. What drew us in was not the fact that there were few Lutherans in that city....or in the whole state! What drew us in was how welcoming everyone was. It was beyond friendly, to warm and inviting. We remember walking in the door and having people greet us with hugs and even having someone come up, grabbing Bethany out of my arms and exclaiming what a beautiful baby she was! We were treated like "framily". Old friends and family combined. We still have good friends from that church and amazing memories. We were so young, and taken under the wings of older members, who shared their wisdom, love, and even gently used furniture! When our son Matt was born, members came and took care of Beth, showing up at midnight so I could go to the hospital. After we had been there about a year Joel filled in as their preaching pastor for 9 months while they went through the process of calling a new pastor. The chaplain on the university's campus officiated at communion, weddings, funerals, and Joel did the rest as a lay person. He received only encouragement from the congregation. Little do they know how much they paved the way for him in ministry.
This congregation had that rare quality of having a strong core of people who were sincerely warm, friendly, and welcoming. As soon as you walked in the door you felt surrounded by love and acceptance. That love.....the love that comes from intentionally being Jesus with skin on and seeing others through the eyes of our Savior... Oh people our churches need to be Jesus with skin on. Welcoming with open arms those in need. And are we not all in need in some way?
Isn't that what we are looking for in life ~ love and acceptance? It is not always easy. I see this quality to love and embrace people where they are at with friends we admire. There are those who do it well, and we can emulate them. It is pretty clear that this is what Jesus commands us to do. Love one another............love your neighbor as yourself. Hospitality, love, acceptance. These are not suggestions. Love those around you. And don't forget about loving yourself. Loving others is made more possible when we can love on ourselves.
We owe so much to Marge, Dick, Skip, LeRoy, Lee. and many others who embraced us so long ago as we walked in as strangers and were welcomed into their church, their homes, their lives as framily.