Mary was most certainly a committed Christian. She cooked and delivered meals for Meals-on-Wheels, set-up the altar for worship services, regularly attended our Bible studies at the church, and served on several church committees. Mary was a great lady! But, even after many years of friendship, Mary and I couldn’t agree on one single thing.
I allowed my dogs to live in the house, but Mary thought that they should live outside.
And that simple difference of opinion can help us to better understand the Gospel that’s set before us this week; because, in Jesus’ time, Jews didn’t allow dogs to come into their homes, while Gentiles welcomed dogs with opened arms and treated them as valued and cherished members of the family. And it worked in the same way with people.
“Those kind of people” (openly called “dogs”) were kept away from “our kind of people.”
People who don’t go to worship are often looked down upon by people who do attend worship – and many pastors won’t baptize the children of the “un-churched.” Many of our churches define people by “who belongs to our church” and “who doesn’t belong to our church” – and ministries are often built around “our” needs and desires. People who struggle with mental illnesses and depression, teenagers who are being victimized by bullies, and people who struggle with addictions can often find the doors of the church closed when they get there. People – even in the Church – can separate themselves into smaller and smaller groups by agreeing that the sins that “those kind of people” commit are worse than the sins that “our kind of people” commit – and, when that happens, the “dogs” are driven away and need to learn how to find what they need in their life – or in their journey of faith – somewhere else.
This week’s message, “Christ’s Church for All People”, is a message that points to the fact that the House of the Lord is a house of prayer for ALL people. God opens the doors of the church to both “those kinds of people” and “our kind of people.” God opens the doors of the church to people who are struggling with mental illnesses, the after-effects of bullying, addictions, and even sin. In this week’s message, “Christ’s Church for All People”, we are challenged to see that we are “Christ’s Church for All People” – a House of prayer and worship where ALL PEOPLE can discover the warmth of welcome and embrace, where ALL PEOPLE can be heard and cared-for, where ALL PEOPLE can be nourished and spiritually fed, and where ALL PEOPLE can be equipped and empowered for both life and ministry in today’s world.