December 1 is World AIDS Day. December 1 is also the day that Rosa Parks refused to yield her seat on a bus in Montgomery. I've been thinking quite a bit about the confluence of those dates this past month. This pondering began when I listened on NPR as people detailed the events in Leipzig, Germany before the Berlin Wall fell. People gathered at Nikolai Church, welcomed by Pastor Christian Fuhrer. People invited others to Monday night prayers for peace. More and more people came as word got out. The pamphlets of invitation simply said, "All Are Welcome."
Isn't that what any of us want to hear? "All Are Welcome." Not for what I can offer or buy or give, but simply, "All Are Welcome." Of course, during this time of Advent in the Christian calendar, we remember the baby Jesus and the shepherds (who certainly weren't on a high rung in their society) who were welcomed by the angels of God.
Those of us who pastored in the NYC area in the late 1980s remember the fear of AIDS. What about communion? "Pastor, how can we welcome everyone if they might give me AIDS?" Education replaced fear and medicine gave hope. And yet, even now, so many in Africa die of this disease every day when medication is widely available here.
Rosa Parks, in the midst of being firmly told that she was not welcome, echoed the insistence of Almighty God the Creator that ALL are welcomed by God, and should be by each other.
Twenty-four more days to Christmas. Who is waiting for you to act on "All Are Welcome"? Some of us live in areas where immigrants are eager to know if they are welcome. Most of us live in areas where people of color are still not welcome like people who have a lighter hue of skin. African children would really like to have their parents live longer -- and they can, with medication. "All Are Welcome."
Rev. Ruth Hawley-Lowry is a pastor in Michigan and serves as a hospice chaplain.