So every July the Shepherds at Highland give me a month to get away and study and plan and pray for the coming year. It’s always a great gift, but it makes me miss Highland and the regular routine. So while I won’t be blogging as regularly for this month, I want to try and stay connected with what is going on at Highland.
This past Sunday, Jerry Taylor preached for our Summer Series Sacred. Jerry talked about how the communion table is the open table of the Lord. One of my favorite lines was “Jesus will not preside over any table that anyone is left out of.” This is extremely important for we religious folk to hear, because we have a real tendency to make our tribe an idol, and make God “Our God”
If you get a chance to listen to Jerry’s sermon, I highly recommend it. He’s one of my favorite preachers, and this was an incredible sermon, you can find it here.
The Margins are the Center
A few years ago, I read an author who was serving in a Christian ministry for sex workers in America. It’s a ministry that was trying to help people get out of an industry that is very hard to leave. At one point, the author was sitting in a circle of former and current sex-workers, and he asked them, “Why do you think that Jesus was so intentional about reaching out to prostitutes?”
And then there was an awkward silence…until one of the working girls said, “Because that meant Everyone…. if He would love and care for people doing what we do, than that means anyone can belong to what He is doing.”
And she is exactly right.
In most societies, we focus on the majority, or how to cast the widest net for the most people. We try to hold the center, even though that inevitably leaves people out….It leaves some on the margins.
But for Jesus, the people on the margins were the center of his ministry.
So maybe you heard about the bulletin at Our Lady Catholic Church. It’s just a normal parish in Denver, but it got all over the news last year for what it put in it’s bulletin. Here’s how they decided to welcome people to their Jesus commmunity:
“We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, and no habla Ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-borns, those who are skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds.
We welcome you here if you just woke up or just got out of jail. 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 soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted.
If you blew all your offering money at the dog track, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.
We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts … and you!
This may seem over the top, but this is exactly the kind of invitation Jesus wants his churches to offer. Jesus isn’t saying everyone and everything is okay…He is saying everyone is welcome.
Did you know that the only visible man-made item from space is the Great Wall of China? Because that’s what we are good at doing. We build up walls, We like to know who’s in and who’s out. And then we love to pretend that God agrees with us. But that’s not the way the Gospel works.
One theologian, a guy named Miroslav Volf, points out that while most religions call exclusion a virtue, the Jesus movement calls it what it is.
So on behalf of Church in general, and Highland Church in particular, let me welcome you to the table.
Because everybody, everywhere is included, invited, accepted and blessed.
Wherever you are, whoever you are, you are invited to participate in the grace giving, life changing Kingdom of God.
So have a seat.
P.S. I’m leaving today for Thailand with my 5 year old Daughter. Please pray for us as we go visit and try to encourage and be encouraged by all the missionaries in Asia.