Christ’s Church for ALL People

Christ's Church

We live our lives with a lot of rules, don’t we?

Written and unwritten rules are just accepted as the “truth” and we often simply accept the things that we’ve been taught without questioning. The rules that we’ve been taught teach us to separate the “good people” from the “bad people” – and it’s, ultimately, these same written and unwritten rules that shape our thinking and our behavior.

And that’s why we’re still trying to figure-out what to do with folks who come to America from other countries. That’s why we’re still struggling to figure-out what to do with folks who fall  in love with people that they’re not “supposed” to fall in love with. That’s why many predominantly white denominations in the Christian Church are struggling to figure-out what they need to do to survive and flourish in a society where white people will very soon be the minority in America. That’s why we’re still trying to figure-out what to do with people who think and who choose to live their lives in ways that we don’t always understand or want to accept.

“Christ’s Church for ALL People” is a message that challenges us to think about the very nature of the Church. How do we make sense of Jesus – a man who touched people who were considered to be “unclean” by others? How do we make sense of Jesus – a man who ate in the homes of tax-collectors and sinners, and who wasn’t even afraid to touch the corpses of those who had died? How do we make sense of a God who loves white people and black people, people who live in the United States and people who want to come to America from other countries? Doesn’t the Sacred Story remind us that God has created ALL people to be both precious and valuable? Doesn’t the Sacred Story tell us about Jesus – a man who came into the world to welcome and embrace people, and to even die on the Cross for everyone?

People – even God’s people – are not always good at lifting-up the fact that everyone is precious and valuable in God’s sight. Even Christians can have a hard time accepting the fact that: there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for [we] are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). And yet, that truth is fundamental to the Christian faith. “Christ’s Church for ALL People” is who we are even in a tumultuous time when many people are speaking a very different truth even inside the Church – the place where Jesus continues to challenge us to offer our welcome and embrace to ALL people and to help them to realize that the Church is a “home” where God’s love and care can be experienced by everyone.

 

What a Restaurant can teach the Church about Hospitality

welcome

What makes you feel welcome?

I’ve noticed that, when my wife and I eat-out in a restaurant, there’s always someone who is ready to greet us the moment we walk in the door.

I’ve noticed that restaurants always have people who are “in place,” who are ready to help me find my way through the hustle and bustle, and who are dedicated to the task of helping me to feel both “comfortable” and “at home.”

I’ve noticed that servers in restaurants almost always tell me their names when we first meet, so that I know somebody by name when I need help. They usually even wear a name tag, so that I don’t feel uncomfortable if I need to talk with them—even though I’ve forgotten their names.

I’ve noticed that restaurants clearly mark the path to the restrooms, so that I don’t need to ask for directions. None of us like to ask for directions to the restroom, do we?

I’ve noticed that most restaurants have high-chairs—because they don’t expect parents to bring everything that their children will need during the visit. When you’re expecting children, you make special provisions for them, don’t you?

I’ve noticed that most restaurants (at least in America) provide menus that are written in English (which, conveniently, is the language I speak) because people want to clearly know what they’re ordering. I’ve never been impressed by a menu that contained fancy words that I didn’t understand.

I’ve noticed that restaurants put “Reserved” signs on seats and tables that are set aside for use by other people. I never need to worry about sitting in someone’s seat and being asked to get out of someone’s seat in a restaurant.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people need to do a lot of different things to make me feel both welcomed and embraced. Hospitality is the outgrowth of strong teamwork.

I’ve noticed that servers seldom complain to customers about their managers, about the cook, or about the people who clean the tables. I enjoy feeling welcomed and embraced, but there IS such a thing as “too much information” during my first visit.

I’ve noticed that the people understand that I’m visiting the restaurant to be fed—I’m not expecting to be asked to help cook my own meal, to pour coffee for other people, and to get the table ready for the next guests who will use it. When I’m visiting a restaurant, I’m not expecting to be offered some sort of “job” before I leave.

I’ve noticed that I’m far more likely to return to places where I have felt the welcome and embrace of other people—when I’ve been made to feel appreciated and important—and when I’ve felt that people were doing their best to make me feel “at home.”

Blessings!

 

 

Freedom in Christ

broken-chain

I’m a person who was raised in the Church.

I have a little pin that proves that I had ten years of “Perfect Attendance” in Sunday School as a child. I still remember standing beside my father during worship services and learning to follow the service by watching his finger move across pages in the hymnal. And, yes…! I was raised in the Church because I was taught to believe that good people to go worship on Sunday mornings (or Saturday nights) because “that’s just how it is.”

Christians can be drawn to noble causes when they spend time in worship. Christians can be inspired to live their lives in the “proper way” – and learn that a journey with Christ is one that’s filled with rules, expectations, and words like “should.” In fact, when we live our lives with just the “little bit of religion” that we gain during hour-long times of weekly worship on Sunday mornings (or on Saturday night), we actually become quite dangerous!

But then, we begin to hear Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek when people slap our face. We begin to hear Jesus tells us to give-away money that we’ve earned in an effort of help other people. Jesus tells us to love our enemies, and to be “as perfect as God.” And, we are pretty quickly left wondering when “good enough” is actually going to be “good enough.”

There’s a different way to live-out your life with Christ; and that’s what this weeks short message – “Freedom in Christ” – is all about. It’s a message that challenges us to come out of the “spiritual castle” that we’ve built for ourselves – a place where we can feel good about ourselves while firing cannonballs at other people. It’s about discovering that the Church is a place where I don’t need to try to be as perfect as you are pretending to be – and where you don’t need to try to become as perfect as I’m pretending to be. And, when we grasp that truth, Christ sets us free! The Church becomes a life-filled place where I can come to be forgiven, to be nourished, to be embraced and to be led by God. And the Church becomes a life-filled place where I can invite other people that I know to share that very, same kind of “holy” experience with me.

“Freedom in Christ” may be a message that helps you to understand the Church in a very different way; and it might even be a message that encourages you to lower the drawbridge of your own “spiritual castle,” so that you can walk more intentionally – and authentically – into a world filled with people that God’s called you to love.

Blessings!