Saturday, June 19, 2010

A place of welcome for those who are wandering

May those without shelter be under your guarding this day, O Christ,
May the wandering find places of welcome.
(excerpted from Celtic Prayers by Philip Newell)

In Luke 19, Zacchaeus found an unexpected place of welcome with Jesus. "Today, salvation has come to this house," says Jesus, "because Zacchaeus too is a son of Abraham." Jesus says he has come to seek out and save the lost.

That Jesus is meant for the lost is a lesson we have needed to learn over and over through the ages. Brother Eoin (Owen) illustrates this on the High Cross at Castledermot southwest of Dublin.

On this cross from about 1000 A.D. are a myriad of symbols illustrating the life of Christ and the way of Jesus. Brother Eion says the main purpose of the cross was to celebrate the evening liturgy, much as the early church has done since 400 A.D. We gathered around the cross in the neighboring community of Moone to worship in a similar manner.

"For my eyes have seen your salvation prepared in the sight of all people. A light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel," we prayed.

In her book, Sacred Space, Stations on a Celtic Way, Margaret Silf says these standing Celtic crosses were the village's library, its pulpit and its art gallery, just as they were the sentinels of the high places, watching over the community, focusing the peoples' gaze always to something beyond themselves.

I imagine the crosses also helped the wandering find welcome. They were "eternal bookmarks on the hilltops," says Silf, reminding "all travelers that their own small journeys were a part of the eternal journey of the whole human family."

Later that evening, in downtown Dublin, I wandered into an old church as its community was celebrating mass. "For you, my soul is thirsting," we sang. "May this be a house of prayer, a church for all people," the priest prayed.

A house of prayer for all people is becoming a recurring theme for me on this pilgrimage. I pray that can be true not only in Scotland, Ireland and Wales, but also in my home congregation in Goshen and among the community I am joining as a new staff person for Mennonite Central Committee.

Jesus comes to seek out the lost like me. May we provide a place of welcome for all who are wandering.

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