Since we were little kids, our parents taught us such things as, "Don't put your elbows on the table", "Answer when you are spoken to", and "Say please and thank you". Some of these "life lessons" were just for the appropriateness of "manners" - like the elbows on the table thing! Have you ever tried to eat a really juicy hamburger, crammed with pickles, onions, lettuce, tomato and the like without your elbows on the table? It makes for a hard time keeping all those juices on the plate and not in your lap! Now, all you "Emily Post" fans out there, don't throw stones, alright? I'm just saying it is much easier to really enjoy the burger with at least ONE elbow on the table! Have you ever stopped to consider why we say "please"? Kids learn at an early age this little word has some form of "magic" associated with it! Say "please" and the cookie is yours. Say "please" and I will give you the money for the movie. Magic! Yet, I wonder if we see anything "magic" with the "you're welcome" response we usually give when someone says "thank you". I think it comes more by habit than it does by really meaning what it says!
It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!” (Romans 10:9-10 MSG)
To really "welcome" someone or something, we are viewing what is said or done as being pleasurable. When we say "you're welcome", we are acknowledging the action on our part which brought pleasure to another. Now, looking at our passage, we see Paul telling us a "word of faith" is all it takes to "welcome" God's work in our lives. In speaking the "word of faith", we are kind of saying to God, "Thank you" - in turn, he is answering "You're welcome" - my actions in your life have brought me as much pleasure as they have you! If we were truthful, we are more grateful for his actions in our lives than we often let on. It is like a load of guilt the size of an elephant sitting on our chest is removed and we can finally breathe again.
Sometimes we make this whole relationship with God thing so mysterious and hard to understand. We think there have to be all these "rules" to follow, when all God says is, "Just say the welcoming word and I will do the rest". One who is welcomed is gladly received. This is all God looks for - a heart open to receive. The welcoming word: "Jesus is my Master". In other words, "Jesus, I want you!" There is no "formula" to follow - just honestly welcome him in and he comes! Then he goes to work while we enjoy the results of his work within us. This work is restorative - that's what Paul meant when he said God's work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. I don't know about you, but dead people need a lot of restoration!
With God, there are no "magic" words, like "please" or "thank you". Yes, he is honored by our thankfulness. In response to God's desire to do in us what only he can do, all he asks is for us to "welcome" him. Then he goes about doing the rest - all the stuff we could never do on our own. If you have ever tried to free yourself of guilt, you probably have had quite a time of it. If you have ever tried to remove yourself out from under a load of unforgiveness and bitterness, you probably have realized how strong the memory is!
Paul gives a little insight into this "welcoming" process. First, we invite him in. If you have ever received someone into your home, you first have to open the door! Next, we embrace him. Yep, you heard me - we embrace him. It is like opening the door, inviting him in, then throwing our arms around him in a huge bear hug that says clearly, "You are welcome here". Paul says we embrace him with body and soul - in other words, we put all of what we are into embracing him. Then, he embraces us and sets about doing what only he can do. We welcome him in - allowing him to do his restorative work - something we will ultimately find quite pleasurable.
Now, I don't know about you, but if God were waiting outside my door this morning, I'd want to welcome him in. I would have no problem throwing my arms around him and embracing him. In that short moment of embrace, much would happen. For it is in connecting with him that I begin to show how much I am welcoming him to do what only he can. Just sayin!