I have been thinking a lot about who is out and who is in, who is them and who is us, about who is included and who is excluded. Some of my thinking is coming from my own experiences of being outside of the church and then back in the church and how it has felt on both sides of that spectrum. It is also coming out of personal experiences of not quite getting how to be part of an ‘in’ group. Something I think many of us have experienced in our lifetimes. As some of you may remember the dear one and I have also been reading the Bible in a Year (a challenge set for the Diocese of Edmonton by our bishop) and a whole bunch of my thinking is coming out of that as well.
A lot of the Hebrew scriptures, that part of the Bible that most Christians call Old Testament, but I don’t out of respect for my Jewish ancestors and again this is about inclusion or exclusion of experience and the right to name something, have to do with how to stay in community, in right relationship with God, how to maintain covenant. In other words about how to stay in with God and not be on the outs with God. We have also read who is able to be part of this community and who can’t – who is in and who is out. In the Jewish tradition it became, and in some cases still is, important to figure out who is part of the covenant community and who isn’t. Even though I have Jewish ancestors I am not considered to be part of that community because my descent comes through my biological father’s side of the family and not my mother’s and to be considered Jewish your mother has to have been a Jew as well. Again inclusion or exclusion.
We in the church like to talk a lot about inclusion. That we welcome everyone to be part of our community. That we act like Jesus, we don’t put up any barriers. That like Jesus we welcome those who are on the outside, who live on the edges, that we don’t push away those we disagree with, that we have room in our hearts for those who are different from us. If we dig deep, we know that this is a lie we all tell ourselves. We all know that ‘certain’ people would not be welcome in our community. You will be able to name who those ‘certain’ people are for your own church community, just I can name who my church community would not feel comfortable welcoming to be part of their circle
My question is what do we do when we see someone or a group of someones being excluded from our community? Do we stand up for them? Do we reach out and offer them a way in? Do we listen to their story and make it our story? Those are questions that each of us who are followers of Jesus need to think about. Those are some of the questions that I am going to ponder as I get ready for another Lent.
Who do you want to include and who do you want to exclude?