”Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” Jesus, in St Matthew 10:40-42.
’The whirligig of time brings in his revenges.’ Shakespeare, in Twelfth Night, Act 5.
Soon after I came to St Melangell’s, having woken up early in the morning I decided to do some messy chores in old clothes before beginning my duties as Guardian. I was clearing out the ashes in the wood burner when the pan slipped and my scruffy jeans became covered in what fell out. I was also aware of several sooty smuts on my face but was about to have a shower and thought nothing of it. Before I’d had chance even to wash my hands, there was a knock at the door. I thought it might be my neighbour but, to my consternation, there stood a Russian Orthodox priest in formal dress, even with buckles on his shoes. “Good morning.” he said. “You must be the housekeeper. Is the Guardian at home?”
My welcome of him was clearly not as anticipated! In the Gospel today, Jesus is giving his twelve disciples instructions for what lies ahead and he speaks of being welcomed by those to whom they are sent. Jesus tells them that their welcome includes him and the one who sent him. The difficulty about being welcomed, however, is whether or not the caller comes at a time when the host is ready for them and one of the lessons I learned from my early visitor is always to expect the unexpected here. That includes the late arrival at 9.30pm one night of a party of Greeks – their minibus had broken down and they had to be in London the next morning but were determined to see St Melangell’s before they drove through the night to catch up with their schedule. They were cold, hungry and fed up – but insistent that they must pray at the shrine. As they held their service, I made them something to eat and it was well after midnight when they left, by now tired but happy that they had been able to pray here. Their dedication in doing this was impressive and a welcome change at a time when churches are having to be closed or made redundant through lack of support.
The pandemic meant that, instead of being welcoming of one another, caution was the order of the day and this is still having its consequences for some. However, other ways were found of being welcoming online or at a distance and these are also having their influence. Each balances the other and, as Shakespeare writes in Twelfth Night, “The whirligig of time brings in his revenges.” A whirligig is a spinning toy going round and round, a reminder that what goes around comes around in life too. The opportunities to welcome others – or not – and be welcomed by them creates the chance also to welcome Jesus and the one who sent him – whether ready or not!
With my prayers; pob bendith,