13 October 2013

It’s not the first time the Lectionary has brought us face to face with the scandalous inclusivity of the Gospel, but that’s the thread running through all of this week’s readings. As tempting as it may be to find ways to draw lines and keep some people out for whatever reason, the Scriptures do not allow us that luxury – and, in truth, our world desperately needs us to be people who, like Christ, embrace, include and welcome all people indiscriminately.

May our worship this week lead us into the scandalous inclusivity of Christ again – and there find a welcome not just for ourselves, but for all.

READINGS:
Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7: Jeremiah encourages the exiles in Babylon to settle into their new country, to vuild homes and lives there among the Babylonian people and to work for the propserity of their new land.
OR 2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c: Naaman, the Aramean commander, is healed of his skin affliction after reluctantly obeying Elisha’s instruction to wash in the Jordan River seven times.

Psalm 66:1-12: A call for all the earth to praise the God who rules over all, and for all nations to bless God.
OR Psalm 111: A Psalm of celebration for God’s mighty acts, and for God’s miraculous, merciful and compassionate acts on behalf of God’s people.

2 Timothy 2:8-15
: Although Paul is inprisoned for preaching the Gospel of Christ’s resurrection, the Gospel itself is not imprisoned. God offers life to those who die with Christ, and God remains always faithful, which is why Paul encourages Timothy to remind people of these thigns and to continue to serve and teach faithfully.

Luke 17:11-19: Jesus sends ten men with a skin disease to show themselves to the priests and they are healed as they go, but only one, a Samaritan, returns to give thanks.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
This week the theme could be called “The Liberated Gospel”! The thread running through all of the readings is about “outsiders” being included in God’s grace and among God’s people – or of God’s people making themselves at home with those with whom they would normally not have associated. Jeremiah encourages the exiles to settle in Babylon, and Elisha heals a gentile soldier. Both Psalms call all the earth and all people to join in the praise of God. Jesus heals a group of men with skin diseases, including a despised Samaritan, and only the ‘outsider’ Samaritan returns to give thanks. And Paul celebrates the Gospel that is not imprisoned, but, through God’s faithfulness is available to all. It’s a week to celebrate the indiscriminate, all-encompassing love, grace and life of God, and to hear the call to live this radical inclusivity in our times and circumstances.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
GLOBAL APPLICATION: As author Brian McLaren notes in his book A New Kind Of Christianity, we all woke up this morning in a world where religious conflict threatens the peace and survival of the entire planet, and in which militaristic radicals have the weaponry to destroy us all. In such a world religious exclusivity and finger-pointing is more than just an act of immaturity – it is a very dangerous way to live. In the midst of this we are challenged by a Jesus who was scandalously inclusive and who crossed all sorts of lines in order to draw circles around everyone. The only ones who were shut out of Jesus’ embrace, were (and are) those who choose to exclude themselves – and even they continue to be loved and accepted by God. In a world where we define ourselves according to nationality, race, skin colour, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, educational level, language and so much more – and use these distinction to justify everything from killing to exploitation, from stereotyping to the threat of hell – we desperately need those who will bravely follow Christ in the act of making outsiders insiders, and embracing even the ones we most struggle to love. This is not just an act of personal spiritual obedience. It is a world-changing commitment that has economic, political, environmental, and even medical consequences.

LOCAL APPLICATION: If the Church is to retain any prophetic voice in our current era, it must relearn the radical inclusivity of Christ. Contrary to the ‘popular’ version of the ‘Gospel’ that makes Christianity an exclusive enclave for those who have prayed the right prayer, or who agree to the right theological ideas, the faith of those who follow Christ must be one that opens its arms to all others. This means that, as many in the emerging church conversation have suggested, we need to move from a process that goes from believing to behaving to belonging, to the reverse process of offering belonging first (with no strings attached), and then allowing our relationships to influence behaving and ultimately lead to faith – or believing. We need to become indiscriminate about who we serve, love, give to, include and bless. We must refuse to judge or disassociate from others on the basis of any false distinctions. We can no longer allow a word like ‘Muslim’ to become an insult, but must rather honour those who follow this faith with sincerity and commitment. We can no longer allow our faith to lead us into arrogance, dominance, exploitation or dismissal of others. This means that in every community, we cannot avoid making ourselves at home among those whom we would naturally avoid. What this means for your Church will be recognised very quickly when you identify those who are missing from your Sunday gatherings, but whom you can’t help but notice as you pass them on the street during the week.

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Prayers:
Ripping Off The Labels
The Life That Ignores Limits
The Ones We Long For

Hymn Suggestions:
The Church’s One Foundation
Come Let Us Sing Of A Wonderful Love
All People That On Earth Do Dwell
From All That Dwell Below The Skies
Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace
Let There Be Love Shared Among Us (Link to Small Church Music page)
Everyone Under The Sun (Link to Audio preview on Amazon.com)
You Are
Everyone Belongs

Liturgy:
A Liturgy for the Agape

Video Suggestions:
A Simple Message of Thanks
Psalm 66

Drama Script:
You’re Not Like Me

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