Everyone is Welcome

Posted on March 29, 2013 at 10:36 am by heatherscherer No Comment

As I was updating our website, I contemplated our need to tell everyone that they are welcome to join our community.  What does that say about the church?

So I got out my Bible and reminded myself that this history of exclusion goes back to the very beginning.  We have scripture that shows Peter and Paul debating the circumcision issue as a requirement for participation in the community.  We are thankful that Paul won the arguement by reminding us that Jesus crossed all barriers and opened up the good news for those outside the Jewish community. In the Christian calendar, we focus on the life of Jesus and his ministry from Christmas to Easter.  We are reminded constantly that Jesus kept shocking people with his choice of companions.  His disciples were not the wealthy or the educated.  They were not the most righteous of the community.  He tended to hang out with the regular people and even those considered sinful.  He walked toward the leper instead of shying away. He spoke to women and debated with them about the Kingdom of God.  He acknowledged children and treated them with value.  He keeps getting into a boat and crossing over into Gentile territory where they ate food that was unclean and did not follow the rigorous Jewish rules for living.  Yet they still managed to be of value to Jesus.

Our Christian church history is full of choices that religious leaders have made to exclude one group or another.  Many churches today still do not allow a woman to lead a committee or a class because she is female.  These churches have chosen to emphasize one scripture attributed to Paul about one woman who was asked to be silenced in the church rather than the many other scriptures that affirm Christianity as radical in its equality.  They ignore the scriptures that show women in leadership in Jesus’ ministry and Paul’s recognition that Timothy is faithful because of the leadership of the women in his family.

My husband’s family was asked to leave their church when his parents went through a divorce.  At a time when the family most needed the church, it turned it’s back on them and treated them as unworthy of being part of the Christian community.  I have heard other stories from people being asked to leave the church because of marrying someone who had been divorced previously.

And in the last few years, the church has become radically divided on the inclusion or exclusion of homosexuals.  People have been denied membership because they were openly gay.  Illegal immigrants are also another hot debate in the church.  Should we be helping them or turning them into the police?  These are the most recent kinds of exclusion the church has found itself choosing sides.  I can’t even imagine what will be next. Those with mental illness?  These are the explicit exclusions but we also have implicit exclusions.  When we don’t have handicap accessibility, signers for the deaf and trained teachers for those with learning challenges, aren’t we also excluding them from the community?  Where does it stop and who gets to decide?

So as a new pastor in a new church, I have decided to look to Jesus instead of the institution of the church for answers.  What would Jesus do?  Scripture stands very clear that he offered community to everyone regardless of their messiness.  At times he almost seems to prefer the tax collector, adulterer and leper over those who have deemed themselves righteous.  So you are welcome.  Whatever barrier that has kept you from the church is not between you and Jesus.  He knows you and welcomes you.  We only hope to be a people and a place where you can get to know him better.  For you see, in his eyes you have value and are loved and nothing can separate you from that.Facebooktwitterby feather

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