“It’s all about inclusion” says Jesus “Not exclusion”

A post by Neil Hart on Homosexuality, LGBT lesbian and Gay stuff and the Lutheran Church of Australia.

I’ve had the covers pulled up over my head again the last few days. I even began looking at the computer with dread rather than a sense of excitement.

But,,something was stirring inside me under those depressed covers. Something good I think.

I was sent these words by a friend the other day.

“He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic , rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In !

From the poem ” Outwitted”
― Edwin Markham

MAN that struck me! I thought for a moment of times when I have drawn circles around myself to shut others out. But that thought was soon swallowed up by the bigger circle, the all encompassing and inclusive cirlce, the cirlce of love.

So reader, from the things that have been stirring within me, I am moved to make a second observation from the things Jesus said and did. The first of those was… “The person in front of me” says Jesus “Not the Law”

This second one focuses on Matthew 13 where Jesus says, “Its all about inclusion, not exclusion”.

Matthew 13 is amazing. The parables are about The Kingdom, the way God does stuff. Mysteries hidden for ages come to light. Surprises, with God acting in ways that no one would ever have thought possible. And its all about God’s wonderfully inclusive nature.

A man sows good seed in the ground but while he sleeps an enemy comes and sows weeds.

(Damn! Thats where weeds come from. Ok…Next time i plant some veges I’m staying up all night with with a baseball bat at the ready. No weeds in MY garden ANYMORE!)  Sorry..whre was I? Oh yeh..good seeds/ bad seeds…

So the servants come running. “There’s weeds growing with the wheat! Shall we pull up the weeds?”

(Ok…Bilical gardening tip No 2. Get servants  who follow your every command. I tried that with the Kids…didnt work out so well. They make LOUSY servants) Where was I again? Oh yeh. wheat and weeds.

But the master says “Nope! Let them grow together. There is a time for sorting stuff. Thats the harvest time. And, guys, THAT will NOT be your job! If I were to let you loose on that feild you would be pulling out stuff left, right and centre and I bet Jerusalem to a clay pot you will be ripping out as much wheat as weed.”

(Ahhh…see?…turns out that the servants do gardening like my kids did after all!!) Where was I? Oh yeh…”let them grow together”

The servants (read you and me) wouldn’t know a wheat shoot from a hat pin!  But, thank God, thats not our job. All we gotta do is “let them grow together” and let God sort stuff out in his own good time.

Dragnet on the Sea of Galilee

Just so the truth of this story really sinks in, Jesus grabs our shoulders, looks us in the eye, and gives us a firm shake. “Are you with me Neil? Do you get it yet? Hmmm. You have that…’I’m not so sure’ look in your eye…Ok..another word picture for you.”

The way God acts is like a prawn net. Like the ones you used to use in the Swan River before everyone started worrying about blue/ green algea and sewerage contamination. The net would drag along the river bottom held down by lead weights and the top would stick up above the surface. Nothing escaped that net. It scooped up everything, tin cans, weeds, jelly fish the occasional real fish and, sometimes…prawns.”

“See?” says Jesus. “Thats the way God does stuff. Scooping up everything. No sorting things out now. No time for that…that comes later and thats not your job anyway. You wouldn’t know a tin can from Bull Shark”

(And nobody told me about THOSE when i was a kid. BULL SHARKS! And there I was,   neck deep at the learners end of the net, half dragging,..half swimming…sigh… and I TRUSTED my parents!!! )  Where was I? Oh yeh …Dragging, not sorting.

Hey! Tin cans and the Kingdom of God reminds me of something. There is this book called The Hammer of God. It’s a Lutheran classic.  I read it ages ago but one section I will remember forever. Two pastors are talking. The younger more enthusiastic pastor looks at the old, slightly alcoholic and obviously burned out minister and rather patronisingly asks…”Have you given your heart to Jesus?”. I just love the old guys response.

“WHAT? You consider THAT a worthy gift? My heart is a rusty old can lying on a junk heap. But a loving saviour takes pity on that rusty can, sticks his walking cane into it lifts it out of the pile, takes it home and sets it on his mantle piece as one of his treasures. (my paraphrase) That is how it is. That is how God does stuff.

There is another little gem of a parable tucked in with these other ones about seeds and nets and stuff in Matthew 13.

The way God acts is like a woman ( a WHAT??!!) who takes yeast  and hides it in a huge lump of dough until ALL OF IT is leavened.

God is like a WOMAN!? C’mon Jesus! Women cant be priests in the temple. They don’t have the right to speak in the synagogues. They are periodically unclean. You cant identify God with a woman and with woman’s work!

Ahh, but he can. His universe…His rules. The way God does things is full of the wonderful surprises and the completely unexpected. The people you thought were outsiders Jesus says are in. Those whom you judge and reject Jesus embraces and calls friends.

And there it is again… In the picture of the yeast as it mysteriously leavens the whole massive lump of dough. The way God does things is ALL encompassing…Alll pervasive and yes…ALL inclusive. (How do you sort yeast out of dough anyway. Its a bit silly to even try really) So, why do we even try? Now is the time  for gathering, now is the time for “Letting things grow together” now is the time for scooping up everything and everyone.

It seems to me that we so easily forget this basic truth. We seem fixated on making Doctrinal Statements and Theological Opinions. There is nothing wrong with that depending on the message of those statements. Sadly few, if any, of our statemnts are about all inclusive cirlces of love and the all inclusive gathering of the Kingdom. Too many of them are about  lines of exclusion and judgement.

Interchurch marriages (NO!), Use of Lutheran Churches by other Groups (NO!) Guidelines for participation in cross denominational or non denominational bible studies (NO!) The Lutheran church and interfaith worship (NO!) Participation in Womens world day of Prayer (NO!) Participation in the Billy Graham Crusade (NO!) Women pastors (NO!) Homosexuality (OMG! ABSOLUTELY NO!)

Edwin Markham’s words come back to me.

“He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic , rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In !

Echoes of Matthew 13. Hey church! If we are gonna say something why cant we say something like THAT? Lets use words and make statements that draw cirlcles of love. Great big cirlces of love that are too big to call anyone “outsider”.

Jesus made the blind to see, the lame to walk and announced the release of captives.   And his all inclusive, radical love continues to shape history. Slaves are freed, women are elevated to positions of honour and rusty tin can hearts continue to be taken home and treasured by God.

And he isnt finished yet…many more surprises in store. Gay people will be free to express their love without condemnation and Jesus’ friends will lead the way in celebrating and supporting that love. And the church will finally give up on the impossible task of trying to sort things out. They will leave behind their pharisee rules and laughable statements that are outdated before thay are even written. They will risk the threat of bull sharks, leave the shore and jump into that crazy, messy, all encompassing, all inclusive prawn net called the present Kingdom of God.