“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

That’s what the Statue of Liberty says.

And that’s what I believe the Church should be saying today.

No matter who you are, where you are from, what you are dying of.  We are not afraid of you.  Come drunk, come ill, come angry, come afraid.  We will welcome you.  We won’t shut our doors in your face.  We won’t turn our noses at your smell.  We won’t look at you side ways when you sing off-key.  When you cry, we will cry with you.  When you laugh, we will laugh too.

We are strong and so we will carry you.  We will carry you when you fall.  We will carry you when you can’t walk.  We will carry you to the throne of God and we will lay you at the feet of the Healer.  We won’t run when the going gets rough.  We won’t run when you turn your back on us.  We won’t forget you when you forget us.  We will lay our lives down for you.  No matter what the cost.

If you need a ride, we will drive you freely. If you need advice, we will give you advice.  If you need shelter, we will find you shelter.  We do have the answer and we will show you the Way.  We are not ashamed of you.  We are not angered by your anger.  We are not offended by your profanity as you shake your fist at God.  We give you grace when others give you the finger.  We know you aren’t who you want to be but by God, you aren’t who you use to be.  We will draw out your talents.  We will give you the Keys to the Kingdom.  We will share our lives with you and not only on Sunday.  We will not pass you off to someone else to take care of.  We will not pray you go elsewhere.

If our seats are only full of the healed, the kind, the successful, then we have failed.

We want our aisles filled with the stretchers of the dying.  We want your tears and your snot on our kleenex.  We want your mess in the bathroom.  We want you to take our parking spots.  We want to be overflowing into the foyer.  We want the fire marshal telling us we have too many people in one building.  We want the gangsters, the murderers, the AIDS patients, the schizophrenic, the rejects, the exiles, the lost, the forgotten, the shunned, the abused, the assaulted and the assaulter.

We want men, women, boys, girls, children, babies.  We want homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals.  We will take you. Where others have shook their heads, we will nod, we will smile, we will hug.  We are not afraid of your disease.  If you have an accident in the seat, we will clean it up cheerfully for we are just happy you are here. We are not afraid of your wounds, your scars, your festering sores.  We are not afraid of your cigarettes, your drugs, your alcohol.  We are not shocked if you shop-lifted yesterday, robbed a bank, are illegally here, murdered 10 people on your way to us.

We are not afraid of you.  We offer peace.  We offer hope.  We offer joy.  We offer the Bread of Life and the Living Water.  We are not afraid of your occupation, whether legal or not.  You are broken as we once were. We know what it is to be confused.  We know what it is to be misunderstood.  We know what it is to feel alone.  We have been where you are.  We call you friend, though others call you enemy.

We don’t grow by gaining members of other churches.  We grow by taking in those who hate and those who don’t hate, those who take their meds and those who don’t, those who pay their bills and those who don’t, those who are on parole and those who aren’t.  We aren’t here for the healthy, we are here for the sick.

You just got out of jail?  Come!  You spend the night in a stranger’s bed? Come! You have no money? Come!  The only word you know is the “F” word?  Come!  We will stay late and come early, for you.  We will pray, we will stand, we will believe the best.  We will offer you the best we have.  We won’t try to change you but will leave that up to God.  We will show you the Way by example.  We are running after God and we will ask you to join us.  We are generous and not only to ourselves.  We will be generous to you-generous with our time, our talents, our money.  We are the land of opportunity, the land of hope, the land of peace.  Come!

By God, if the Statue of Liberty can say it, The Church can!