Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Does He Know?...And Does That Stop Me?

This week's scriptures are Luke 7:36-50 and Acts 8:26-39.

Both of these stories are about people who would,under their cultural context, be cut off from worship and relationship with God. One is a woman with a shady reputation; the other is a eunuch.

In the story from Luke, the Pharisee who had invited Jesus to dinner sees this woman crying over Jesus feet and drying them with her hair as says to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him-that she is a sinner." He uses this incident to judge not only the woman, but Jesus as well.

The Ethiopian Eunuch is on his way back from Jerusalem where he had gone to worship. Think about is a man who is a convert to the Jewish faith, who has come to Jerusalem to worship KNOWING that because of his physical condition (having been castrated) that there are limits to where he will be allowed to worship. There are places in the temple where he cannot go. Yet he still comes to Jerusalem.

Both of these people come to faith with questions about whether they will still be outcasts. Can you hear the trembling question in the eunuch's voice when he says to Philip, ":look there is water! Is there anything that will prevent me from being baptized?" A paraphrase of that question might be, "Does Jesus hold my condition against me too?"

I think many of us still ask that question. In the deep part of our hearts we want to know if the things we know about ourselves, the secrets that we clutch so tightly will keep us from Jesus love.

And there are those outside the church who look at us and ask the same questions. This is AIDS Awareness Week. On Thursday I'll be at the AIDS Awareness Luncheon with Joann and others who are deeply committed to this issue. We need to ask ourselves, "What do persons with HIV/AIDS hear from us about their welcome into the fellowship of those who seek to follow Jesus?" We can ask the same question in regard to those with mental illnesses, addictions, questionable sexual behaviors, and disabilities. What is our answer when they look at us and say, "Does Jesus hold my condition against me?" "Is there anything that will prevent me from being baptized (welcomed completely into the fellowship)?"

While 'litmus tests' may be okay for political parties; they are off limits when it comes to who we welcome into the Body of Christ. Jesus said, "Who so ever will...let them come." That's pretty clear. He didn't say, "Let them come after they clean up their act, after they've been in recovery for a year or two, after they're on their medication" no, He said, "Let them come."

I love the old Hymn, "Love Lifted Me." I especially love the bass line in the chorus where the response to "love lifted me" is "even me." And the final line, "when nothing else could lifted me." When nothing else could help, when nothing at all could save me from my shame and my alienation and my fear of rejection.....Love lifted me.

The doors are always open into the Kingdom....God's arms are always reaching out. Thanks be to God.

See you Sunday.


Anonymous said...

I definitely agree with everything you're saying here. But I think the next question is - are we 'letting them come' by way of acceptance or forgiveness?

Conditions are accepted. Sins are forgiven. And there still a lot of debate in the church about which is which. If I were a homosexual, or an addict, or a single-mother or a victim, or a person with a disability - I wouldn't take much comfort in a welcome that was based on forgiveness; I'd want acceptance.

The fact that many churches are divided on what's a condition and what's a sin leads to the question so many are asking: does letting them come, also mean letting them lead?

I think it should, but until we can distinguish between sins and conditions some people will keep fighting it and others will keep feeling unwelcome.

Anonymous said...

Uploaded 10-15 (sorry for the delay!)