Saturday, 28 August 2010

A welcoming church?

This week's gospel: Luke 14: 1,7-14

Over on the other blog I was reflecting on how sad it is that, for many people, the church would not even be a place of last resort when they are in need of help.
The institutional church has built up a reputation of exclusivity and judgmentalism - so far from the inclusive, biased to the rabble, church that Jesus modeled.
And, while I would love to think and claim that things have changed - that nowadays the church is an embracing, welcoming place, I would be hard pressed to evidence that. Because there are still too many people in the church who simply don't get it. They see faith and its practice as something to be guarded and protected, not flung open to those who would not handle with care, those with "no respect".
This week's gospel speaks to all of us who are stumbling blocks, who bar the gates and exclude many whom Christ calls- and welcomes - into the kingdom.
The church is not ours - but Christ's. Christ did not exclude. Christ did not look with disapproval on those who did not know the rules of behaviour - but welcomed them and rejoiced in their differences and loved their non conformity.
I love the church.
I love my place in it.
But I cannot see it ever becoming the kind of church that Christ envisaged without a radical rethink and an earth shattering reform.
And, if that were ever to happen, would we be happy about being at the bottom of the pile as we surely would in God's upside down kingdom?
This gospel challenges so much that even those who claim to be open and welcoming need to examine. Because just when we think we've grasped what it's all about, there's a rumble of divine laughter encouraging us to push the boundaries again, to throw out our hastily redrafted liberal rules and get back to the drawing board.

This song, from Nichole Nordeman encourages us to leave the safety of the status quo behind which we cower.

1 comment:

Nik said...

Liz, I'm from a non-church background. A comment my step-dad made many years ago, which informs my preaching even now, is 'why do I need to go to church to be told how crap I am?' I suspect he is not alone in that line of thinking.
Personally, I'm finding it increasingly difficult to sing 'All are welcome' - I know I could sing it as a hoped-for future thing, but in the present I'm afraid it just kinda sticks in my craw at times...