Just how inclusive are we? (Revised)

Hit the wrong button yesterday and this got published before I’d finished. I was rushing out to get yet another blood test. I get blase about appointments these days, but I have two weeks off now…yayyy.

The Article below which I read on a blog, had me thinking. I think it throws open many questions about human nature which are not easy to answer. What would be the reaction if I read this out at the beginning of a service. We always welcome visitors to our church, and ask them to stay for coffee afterwards, but  is this invitation for those who we think will fit nicely into the congregation and not rock the boat.

I read something that Jeff Lucas had written about a stripper who attended his church, not dressed in the normal Sunday attire. They eventually adapted a service time so that she and her colleagues could attend. It was said that some wives had to cover their husbands eyes to allow them to concentrate.

At a service in a hall recently I sat next to a lady who usually sits alone, and I felt she might need some company, being the nice Ministers’ wife that I am. She was sitting next to a radiator, and as she heated up, it became apparent why she sits alone. The smell became over powering and I had difficulty singing without retching, I was relieved when the service ended and I flew outside for air. Despite my feelings, Jesus loves her and was pleased with her worship (despite her personal hygiene requirements.)

This Church Notice comes from  Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Community Church, but I have changed parts to relate to our own denomination.

” We extend a special welcome to those who are single,married, divorced ,gay,filthy rich, dirt poor, de tala inte Engliska,. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new borns,skinny as a bean pole or could afford to lose a few pounds.

We welcome you, if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or like some of us who can’t carry a note in a bucket. You are welcome here if you are just “browsing”, just woke up or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you are Baptist, Methodist, Anglican or more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church for donkey’s years.
We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 ,but not grown up yet,and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccar Mums, rugby mad Dads, starving artists,tree huggers, latte sippers, vegetarians, junk food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you are having problems, or if you are down in the dumps or if you don’t like ” organised religion”, we’ve been there too.
If you blew all your money at the Bookies, you are welcome here.We offer a special welcome to those who think that the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell,or are here because Grandma dragged them.
We welcome those who are tatooed,pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid,or got lost in traffic and ended up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, the broken hearted ……..and YOU!

I don’t think I have to comment, just how welcoming is your Church or mine?
This has been eating at me after a conversation with a member of the congregation, it was very cold in Church on Sunday, the particular building we were in this week is old and not in good repair, if you sit at the end of a pew plaster falls on your head ( small crumbly bits, I might add).It also has the Lairds Balcony, now unsafe but means a very high ceiling. I suggested to a lady that was cold that perhaps we should wear hats, to which she replied that she had a box full and I noticed that her eyes gleamed. The fashion of wearing hats comes and goes but, in church it could become and probably did, when it was considered compulsory,  a barrier . At events televised in great cathedrals, hats seem to have been chosen to get oneself into “Hello” magazine.

Many of us look back on our church life with nostalgia. I had a friend who always wore a hat, just because she liked too, but some of the rituals we enjoy keep us from moving on and being open enough for anyone to walk in off the street. I am not attacking denominations, we all choose the kind of worship we most enjoy, from those with beautiful choral music and prayer books, to those with a band and much less structure, I love variety, but I know that some of the folk mentioned above in the Church Notice, would have some of us in a flurry of emotion .We are not called to judge them , and that is much harder than it sounds. Why?   That’s a big subject that I might tackle later, unless of course you would like to start the ball rolling in a comment?  Jesus didn’t label people, in his eyes we are all equal, all our sins forgiven because of his sacrifice.It all comes down to that four letter word  “LOVE” with  that word none of us deserve  “GRACE”.

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2 thoughts on “Just how inclusive are we? (Revised)

  1. Went from writing this blog to my daily reading…I think he puts it’s quite clearly.
    Daily Reflection
    by Scot McKnight on Tuesday, October 23, 2012

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    Surprise, Surprise! at the Mysterious Work

    Matthew 5:3-12

    “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

    [Matthew 5:3]
    Imagine you are in a church meeting deciding who will be leaders for the new initiative for outreach in your community. Imagine your fellow believers informing you that you can choose anyone in the church. Now imagine making your list, distributing it to the congregation knowing everyone invited will accept, and on Saturday morning showing up to meet your new team. Imagine it’s not the people on your list. Instead, it’s someone from government-assisted housing on the other side of the town, and some little old lady in your congregation who never says anything to anyone, and some recently retired businessman who just moved in. “Surprise, surprise!,” you hear. You recognize the voice of God and realize that God has just revealed something deeply mysterious about his work in this world.

    We are prone, and I must admit that “I” am prone, to think we know who is “in” and who is “out” when it comes to the people of God. But Jesus wants us to see that “the people of God” is more expansive than we would ever have known.

    Peter had to learn this when God lowered a sheet of unclean animals for him to eat, revealing that God was at work even among the Gentiles. When Peter preached to Cornelius, there in the Mediterranean coastal city of Caesarea, that Gentile man responded to the gospel. The Spirit fell, and Peter admitted that God shows no favoritism: God is at work in all, among all and wants each of us to know that our responsibility is to pray and to watch God work among those whom we might not think are worthy candidates.

    Jesus’ words in the Beatitudes are like a light tapping away at our prejudices. One person after another is listed by Jesus and, truth be told, these folks were not on Peter’s (or any of the disciples’) list. The people of God is more expansive than we know. So we need to look around us at everyone and learn to think, “God is at work in that person, whether I see it or not.”

    QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Can you name someone who surprised you when you heard God was at work transforming his or her life? (Maybe it’s you!) Perhaps you can begin to reflect today the ways in which you “judge” others and refuse to see God at work in their lives. Where would you like to see God at work in someone’s life? Do you think God is already at work?

    PRAYER: Our Father, today I want to expand my sense of “Our” in “Our Father.” I want you to give to me a more expansive sense of your work in this world, a more expansive conviction that because you love everyone and because you want each person in the world–from Seattle to Miami, from Miami to Paris, from Paris to Istanbul, from Istanbul to Mumbai, to Mumbai to Tokyo, from Tokyo to Perth, from Perth to Sao Paulo, from Sao Paulo to Kenyatta–to be reconciled to you, and because you are infinitely capable of reaching each person, give to me a perspective of seeing you at work in all places among all peoples.

    Rid me of my judgments, my censoriousness, and my sense of superiority. Help me to see the world through the words of Jesus–that those not on my list are on your list! Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

    P.S. from Mark Roberts: This week’s reflections are written by New Testament professor, prolific author, blogger at Jesus Creed, man of deep faith, and my friend, Dr. Scot McKnight. If you missed my introduction of Scot in Monday’s reflection, you can find it here.

  2. Very interesting post…how prone we all are to judging others, to thinking we know best, and to writing off those who don’t quite fit our unconcious criteria of what a Christian should look like! But we all have our odours whether they are unpleasant or inviting and we all need to be show and be shown the love of Jesus in our lives, it reminds me of an old Keith Green song …… ‘you’re the only Jesus some will ever see….’

I would love to hear your comments and will try to reply ASAP.

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