June 24, 2023
This entire week, I have been using my Etchings to prepare for tomorrow’s sermon. That’s a lot of energy and thought spent getting ready for one sermon, and now there is this anxiety that I have way overhyped this sermon. That was not my intention. But as I sit here today, I’m wondering if folks will walk out tomorrow saying, "Well, that was disappointing!" I am reminded of the old adage, "Under promise and over deliver, not the opposite."
I will be concluding the sermon series on Extending the Welcome: How do you define community without lines? In a world that likes dualistic thinking—us or them, insiders vs. outsiders, winners and losers—I have been suggesting that Jesus presented an alternative vision of life together. Within 50 years of the Church’s birth (approximately 50 years after the ascension of Jesus), there has been a struggle over how to define community. The Apostle Paul wrote, "There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). He offers a glimpse of the Kin(g)dom of God, while creating an expectation of how life within the church should be lived. The traditional way of defining others has been based on what they are not, but Paul challenges that thinking and invites us to think of the other, first and foremost, as one of God’s beloved. In theory, it seems simple. But as you try to live it out, there is a definite discomfort as one is confronted with the implications of such an idea. Suddenly people are saying, "Oh, I assumed you didn’t mean those people."
In tomorrow’s sermon, I am going to ponder how Paul might speak to a church today that is so divided, recognizing that there were people in his community that hated or were fearful of Jews (or Gentiles); there were those who continued to believe women were inferior to men (perpetrating gender-based violence); and those who upheld the idea that some people were less and thus deserving of slavery. In today’s culture, it might be immigrants, including those who are undocumented. It might be those who are homeless and viewed as lazy. It might be those who are gay or lesbian. It might be those who are transgender or genderfluid. And of course, it might be… (you fill in the blank).
What did the people in the parking lot say to one another, before getting on their donkeys, in regard to what Paul’s letter said? Were there those who were okay with some of what Paul wrote but sure didn’t want to openly welcome any slaves into the community? "Surely Paul has made a mistake," is what some of them thought. How do we really, not just in word, begin our interaction with others with the opinion that this person who stands before us is one of God’s beloved, and any negative thought that comes to mind is probably going to interfere with us making real God’s Kin(g)dom here and now?
In a world built on the binary, on us vs. them, we look to Jesus for something to shatter that old model. Holy and Grace-filled God, provide for us a clear vision of what is possible along with the resolve to see the probable become our daily practice. Amen.
Rev. Bruce Frogge