From Exclusion to Inclusion
We continue today our sermon series:
Sometimes we can make assumptions in our relationships about who is sick and who is well. As we open ourselves to radical hospitality, both in the giving and the receiving, God begins to gently open up the sick parts of us to healing from surprising places and people.
Nouwen was opened up to a new level of spiritual intimacy and vulnerability when he was led to serve at L’Arche Daybreak, a home for those with physical and mental disabilities in Canada.After straining and striving in the hallowed academic halls of Yale and Harvard, he found himself among those facing enormous challenges in navigating the very simplest tasks of daily life. There he met Adam, about whom he writes;
I think about the community Nouwen describes here, and compare it to times when I’ve been in professional gatherings. Many of us have gone to them; they may be organized around a particular profession, or an academic discipline or a business venture; I find when I have attended these things I sort of grit my teeth through the posturing and the preening, as we all try to “make an impression” or “get noticed”; pass around business cards or instagram handles and do our best to look successful. It’s exhausting. You know what the best part of those gatherings is? After all the formal sessions. When people gather in groups of haggard people, tired of the show, and be themselves.
Intimacy is not fostered in great halls of power but in quiet side rooms where people allow themselves to be vulnerable, in a community of the weak.
In our text today, Jesus receives the radical hospitality of Levi Matthew the tax collector. He reclines at table with those the powerful people ignore, overlook, judge, or ridicule. He enters into spiritual intimacy around food and drink in a community of the weak. It is his way. And it makes no sense to the powerful people in town.
I’m sure there were many who raised their eyebrows at the Harvard and Yale professor who left the halls of academic prestige and influence to spend his days with those who struggled to get dressed in the morning. But thiat is the way of Christ. And Nouwen found in community with them that vulnerability leads to solidarity--when all are included, all are built up and encouraged in the Body of Christ.
It is the first Sunday of the month, and as such it is our custom here at Brookings First UMC to celebrate communion. There is a distinctively Methodist practice when it comes to communion that demonstrates our commitment to Jesus’ radically inclusive way in the world. We practice an open table. Consider the scene at Levi’s house on that joyful evening. He invited all his friends. The disciples were there. Jesus were there. All were welcome, even the scribes and Pharisees if they could have stopped looking down their noses at these people long enough to see them. All were welcome around the joyful table of radical hospitality, this rowdy, celebrating group of misfits. This is the way of Jesus; it is the way of shocking welcome, of arms wide open, of spiritual intimacy and open communion.
IN her book Searching for Sunday, Rachel Held Evans said;
As we gather around our communion tables, whether it be here or in our homes, we are practicing the radical hospitality, the spiritual intimacy, and the open communion that are hallmark’s of Jesus ministry on earth. The sacrament of communion opens us up to communion with God and communion with one another as we share the bread and the wine; as we remember the body broken and the blood poured out. We celebrate, we remember, we give thanks. It is a most intimate, incarnational act.
What does it look like to be a community of the weak? It looks like saying “yes” when Jesus meets us along the way of our lives and calls out; ‘Follow me.” It looks like sitting down at the table of abundance with no one left out and always room for more. It looks receiving the gift of one another, letting our hair down, and passing the bread and cup. As we come to the table today, know this; you are welcome. You are always welcome. Come and celebrate the feast of Christ.
Let us pray:
Lord as we gather around this wonderful meal
everywhere and in every place;
bless us all your children.
As we eat this bread and drink this cup
linking arms around the world,
pour your grace into us all.
Grace us with your presence
as we quietly and loudly pray to you.
May we see in each other
your light, your love and you.
May it not matter our differences,
our names, our languages,
our looks, and our way of doing things.
May what matter today and everyday be that we are one in you.
And as we pray many we call to mind our brothers and sisters
who are unable to be with us today whether in body or spirit.
May you bring comfort to those who are grieving, lonely,
heartbroken, ill or broken of spirit.
May you strengthen those whose lives feel shattered,
don’t make sense, in crisis, and experiencing loss.
May you say the healing word to those who need it.
May you bring the human touch of love
to those who have not been touched.
May you love the unloved through us.
May you shine your light
into those whose world is covered in darkness.
May you use us to feed the hungry,
clothe the ones who need clothes,
give a cup of water to those who are thirsty,
shelter the homeless, visit the sick and those in prison.
May our lives be awakened to you, Lord,
to your love and to your kingdom
whose door is always open to all. Amen.
(introduce Closing song)
Benediction: Go in peace and may God’s peace go with you; and may you bring bring hope and healing and radical welcome to all whom you meet. AMEN.