Dear Rose Park,
Many of you have mentioned the phrase “welcome back” several times to our family as we’ve spent time with you at our house or at worship. Not only does this phrase remind me of the theme song to “Welcome Back Kotter”, but it also warms my heart to be welcomed with such hospitality and love.
When Sam and I left Holland five years ago it was just the two of us. We were heading down to Cincinnati, OH where I served as a hospital chaplain at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. A year later, it was still just the two of us, as we drove twelve hours northwest to Sanborn, IA where I was the pastor of First Reformed Church for four years. But when we left Sanborn, it was not just the two of us. We bring back to Holland our almost two-year-old son Simon, an expecting little one, and a three-year-old golden retriever named Rudy. Nevertheless, you have welcomed us back with open arms. As you welcome us, I want to welcome you back as well.
Maybe it’s been awhile since you dawned the doors of the sanctuary. Maybe it’s been awhile since you’ve tasted the bread and sipped from the cup. Maybe it’s been awhile since you’ve spent time in silent prayer. Maybe it’s been awhile since you’ve heard songs and hymns sung from the stage. Maybe it’s been awhile. Whether you’re a lifelong member of the church, a Christmas and Easter kind of attendee, or just a funeral and wedding kind of attendee I want you all to know that you’re welcome back anytime. There is no amount of sin, shame, hurt, or pain that could ever separate you from the love of Jesus or the Church.
Just as the prodigal son is welcomed back into the arms of the loving father, so too are you and your loved ones welcomed and welcomed back into the arms of the church. Just as the church family has welcomed us back, so too do we want to welcome you all back. My family looks forward to getting to know you and your loved ones. We look forward to seeing you in worship. We look forward to enjoying a slice of Mario’s Pizza and a Holland sunset with you. And we look forward to seeing you around town and sharing life together.
I hope these weekly letters serve as a devotional for you, to help supplement your spiritual life. For some of you, they might even be the invitation to come back to the church that you’ve been waiting for. If that’s the case, then please know the invitation never went away, but it’s certainly been offered again.
Grace & Peace,