I’ve recently returned to Adelaide after living in Perth for 5 years. In that time I’ve been part of a range of communities; including beautiful church communities where all of me; my heart for justice, my queerness, was welcomed and affirmed, and I’ve been in church communities that preached love and inclusion, but in reality, also intentionally practiced exclusion – my queerness wasn’t welcome there.
I’ve been taught and shaped and formed in all of these communities – and being in community with people fundamentally different to me, has challenged their perception of “people like me”, and challenged my perception of “people like them.”
And this reminds me how we are always learning and growing. We never arrive at the end of the road where we know everything, or have learned and unlearned everything we need to. We’re continually learning, being challenged, challenging each other. That’s what authentic community does. It holds us accountable to each other, holds us accountable to who we want to be.
Padraig O’Tuoma, a poet and theologian poses this question in of his poem “The Northern of Ireland”: Who are we to be with one another? and how are we to be with one another?
And I think this is such an important questions for communities of all kinds to ask themselves.
“Who are we to be with one another?” and “How are we to be with one another?”
For many of us, for myriad reasons; be it age, gender, ability, sexuality, race, or a number of other factors, our time in churches and faith communities has taught us that something about us must be hidden, dimmed down, or changed in order to be included. This teaches us that there is something about us that is quintessentially not accepted by the community and by God.
To be able to come to the table, we must perform in a certain way, or hide a certain part of us, in order to be welcome or accepted by that community, and by extension by God.
It’s gatekeeping – and the Jesus I see at the cross just doesn’t vibe with this.
The love that conquered death at the cross calls us to be better than this. Jesus calls us to be better than this
The love that conquered death at the cross compels us to challenge stances of unwelcome and rejection.
And what is beautifully grounding for me is that this radical inclusivity, this idea of love and justice, is not new. It’s not some new way of interpreting scripture that us lefties have made up to suit our agenda. It’s strewn throughout the bible, both old and new testaments.
Let justice roll down like a river and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream
Or the message version:
I want justice, oceans of it
I want fairness, rivers of it.
When Jesus commands us to love our neighbour, it’s not “love the neighbour who agrees with you” or “love the neighbour you get along with”.
He simply says love your neighbour.
The neighbour that looks like us and the one that doesn’t.
The neighbour who thinks like us and the one that doesn’t
The neighbour who likes us and the one that doesn’t
Dr Cornel West says; “justice is what love looks like in public”. Or as Dr King puts it; “justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”
And so the radical love that Jesus models, and calls us to practice, is power correcting everything standing against love. It’s a revolutionary act of radical inclusion, of actively breaking down barriers, or turning tables.
It looks like actively challenging the exclusive practices the church often loves to cling to.
I’ve been in churches where the communion table has rules of who can participate in the Eucharist and who can’t.
And in churches where the ritual of communion, ensuring it is performed only this way, by only this person, can appear more important than the shared experience of spiritual union.
But Jesus simply said “do this, in memory of me”
And so I believe that the ways in which we come to the table don’t matter as much. What matters is that we’re invited.
God wants us here.
We’re invited as we are, who we are, how we are.
I’d like to extend this invitation to God’s table.
This is the table, not of the church, but of the risen Christ.
It is to be made ready for those who love god and those who want to love god more.
So come, you who have much faith, and you who have little
You who have been here often and you who’ve come for the first time
You who have tried to follow, and you who feel you have failed
Come, because it is God who invites you, and it is their will that all those who seek Christ will meet him here. Amen.