invitation: opening the doors of the heart

I caught a flicker of movement in the mirror above the organ console and noticed someone sit down in the Sanctuary. I stopped, turned around and greeted her. She politely asked if it was ok to be there and wondered if she could bring a colleague to listen. I told her they were welcome and continued practicing for the coming Sunday. A few minutes later, she reappeared with a second person and they sat and listened attentively for some time.

Before leaving, I encouraged them to come up to the keyboard (which sits in a rather imposing spot) and gave a brief demonstration of various stops. In the process, I learned that they have worked in the building for several years, in offices that the church rents to a large non-profit organization. They had heard the organ (and sometimes felt its rumble) at their desks but never seen it in person. Their interest was genuine and they were grateful to know more about an instrument that often feels distant and mysterious even to regular churchgoers.

What started as curiosity became a meaningful connection as we continued to talk. The pastor of the church soon joined us and cards were exchanged, followed by email a few days later. As a result, we've organized a short organ recital for employees who work in the church building. What initially felt like a simple hello opened a door to a new experience of community and an opportunity to share music with others. 
This experience and others from my work over the past year have me thinking a lot about invitation, especially the quality of invitation that we extend to others in and around faith communities. Invitation goes beyond simply saying ‘join me.’ It is something we see in the face and feel in the gut. When actions and words unite in a clear and unequivocal gesture of hospitality, others feel truly welcome.

Invitation means opening the door of our churches, of our choir rooms, and organ lofts so others can tentatively, confidently, or curiously step through. It requires a willingness to put our agendas aside and meet people where they're at. It's more than a handshake with a guest or visitor but instead taking time to know them and to affirm that their presence really matters to us. Invitation includes the possibility of carving out new spaces for others' gifts and talents, rather than assuming they will fit neatly into existing structures or schedules. Invitation is doing the hard work of opening our lives and hearts to all those God might bring to us, not just when it's convenient.

We find motivation for this quality of invitation in the faithful, extravagant love of God, which never changes or diminishes. As we know ourselves fully welcomed and unconditionally loved by the Holy One, we can and will share this same liberating love with every person we meet. This is the core of the Gospel message to me, the Good News that invites us to a renewed understanding of who we are, who God is, and how are we called into relationship with others.