Jason Byassee from the Vancouver School of Theology has this to say about today’s readings: They address the primary reasons people don’t want to join the church-or any faith.
One, religion is only for a select few people who look down on others for not being part of them. But in Acts, God says no, everyone is included. Two, religion is about other worldly escapism. But in Revelation we are told that the Christian faith is about bringing Christ to the Earth-to live among us in a world as it was intended to be. Three, faith forgets to love. But Jesus told the disciples to love one another-after he was crucified and raised again.
And we have our faithful few who attend here on Sundays. Gretchen and I spent last week at clergy conference that segued into Bishop’s Leadership Conference on Wednesday afternoon. It was worth all the time and funds spent. We had a great presenter who talked to us about the black feminists who started a movement, covered some critical race theory, and learned quite a bit about inclusive language and actions. I like all the ideas we gleaned to love whoever walks in the door and also, how to love the people who are unable to come here. How language matters to those who live on the margins-how we can use language to bring them into the center. I brought a sample liturgy back with me that we used for our one Eucharist at the retreat.
I have been concerned about those we love and those we could love, who aren’t here with us. We also got some ideas for including the people who are unable to come back to the church building and even people who will never come to our building for a worship service. I want to revisit having internet access here and I also have some ideas about how to resolve our church phone situation. I am convinced we should be live-streaming and recording our church services and there are people who can help us set those up.
I don’t want to be exclusive with our worship and Bible study-we can be inclusive. I don’t want our worship to be this other-worldly experience but something that fortifies and equips us to live out Christ’s love in the world. And something we can share with people who are unable to come to this physical space. I want the people we love to know we still love them and I would like to increase that circle so that geography and health concerns don’t keep us exclusive and small in number.
I am convinced that this pandemic has cracked our vision of the world wide open and we should look for the good in that. We should think about how this shifts our mission and how we can shift our thinking and our practices so we can sustain the community we have created here-that we are still creating here.
Peter was invited to travel to Cornelius’ home and we could travel virtually to many places. Perhaps this is what Jesus is calling us to do: to love whomever clicks into our video feed, ask them to read a Bible passage, tell us their prayer requests, and become part of the beloved community. It could happen! I am full of hope for the future!