All Welcome

A dilemma many of us have faced, maybe it’s a wedding, or a party–we want to invite all our friends and family, but can we? Is it possible to have an open invitation without the situation getting out of hand?

I remember as a young teenager being upset because my older brother would be invited to parties and not me. I remember standing at the kitchen counter, invitation to my brother in hand and complaining, ‘It’s not fair. I’m friends with them too. Why wasn’t I invited?’

‘Stop complaining,’ my mum would say, ‘your time will come.’

Didn’t help that our youth group friends had a saying: ‘You can’t have a party without my brother.’

Hey, I’m the sociable extrovert here! My brother’s the shy awkward type who prefers staying in his room making telescopes and short-wave radios.

So I lived with these multiple rejections as I believed them to be…

…Until one day, I collected the mail from the letterbox. What’s this? A letter for me? I tore it open and read:

‘Dear Lee-Anne,

                                    You’re invited to  ***’s birthday party,…’

Huh? I re-read the invitation. Must be a mistake. Where’s my brother’s name? Invitations always had my brother’s name attached, and occasionally my name included, especially where the youth group friends were concerned. Her invite made my teenage decade, for once, I was invited and not my brother.

But…what if there were parties or celebrations without restrictions on who’s in and who’s out? What if all who want to be invited could be invited? Are we inviting trouble if we make an event open to all?

I want to celebrate my late-Grandmother who demonstrated this openness and was successful. She looked outward at those in need of friendship and love. Her table was never too small and somehow, no matter how many she had for Sunday lunch, she always made the food stretch. Something of the loaves and fishes plus Jesus effect. (Read in the Bible how Jesus feeds the 5000. Matthew 14:13 – 21)

So that’s all very well and good opening our homes and sharing dinner with others. But back to the party or community event idea. Is it possible to have a party without restrictions on who and how many come without fear of it getting out of control?

I believe it is possible—when we look beyond our limitations and look to God and others to enable us to achieve success; a piece of God’s Kingdom where all people are welcome, all people are valued and seen. And where those running such an event demonstrate the values of justice, mercy and compassion. With the right training, this type of event can provide a safe and caring environment.

Recently, I participated in an event in a park involving a number of community organisations one of which was Fusion Australia. We had a variety of fun activities such as puzzles, stilts, giant snakes and ladders game, and a group game for all ages. People could join in if they wanted to, or just watch if they preferred. No one was forced to join in. Even so, people from the Fusion team connected with the on-lookers, getting to know them and by the end of the afternoon, they were smiling and chatting with team members.

Two of my friends whom I’d brought along joined, for the first time, in the group game of water balloon volley ball. They had so much fun, their faces were glowing.

‘I’m so glad I joined in,’ one said. ‘If I’d sat and watched, I would’ve regretted it. It was so much fun.’

My other friend said, ‘We enjoyed the event so much and before we knew it, the time had come to pack up and go.’

This welcoming experience, I think gives a glimpse of God’s Kingdom—it’s free and available to all who want to join in and engage with others in the community. Did I say it’s free? Actually, there is a cost—a change in our world view—a change from an inward-looking one where we are the centre of our universe, to an outward-looking one where we see others and value others and see that with others (and God) our perceived weaknesses become our strength.

We have a choice. We could stay safe in our “castle” reinforcing the walls to guard against fear and failure, and so leave others to stay isolated in their “castles”. Or we can look outwards, break out of our “castles”, reach out and connect with others making our communities better places to live.

 

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016

Photo: Keep the ball in the air–Willunga Almond Blossom Festival (c) Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2010

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