Yesterday I attended an 80th birthday party along with about 20 other members of the congregation. The birthday "girl" has been attending our church for nearly 20 years, but has said often and emphatically that she would never place her membership there. She felt unloved and unaccepted. It didn't help that several years ago a member, hearing her say this, suggested she might be happier if she attended worship somewhere else.
The miracle happened this morning when I extended the weekly open invitation to become part of the body of Christ in our congregation. This woman, face wreathed with smiles, walked forward and accepted the right hand of Christian fellowship as a full member of the congregation. I've never heard my congregation speak the words of welcome with quite so much vigor and joy. Some were in tears. Everyone made a point of greeting and congratulating her.
She said she finally realized, at her very first birthday party ever, that the people she worships with every single Sunday really do consider her part of the family.
What a little thing it is to attend a birthday party. Who could have predicted that this would have such a profound impact on the life of this woman? Hopefully, as we celebrate and move forward from our Jubilee, we will remember today and reach out to welcome others who feel alone.