I have been working on my sermon on 'An Inclusive Community' and decided to supplement the suggested reading of the call of Levi from Mark 2 with the story of Zaccheus from Luke 19. It is Zaccheus who has proved more helpful as I think I can justify identifying different aspects of exclusion, and hence inclusion...
- He was physically excluded (altogether: 'Now Zaccheus was a very little man...')
- He was socially excluded - he was a Roman collaborator
- He was religiously excluded - he was a 'sinner'
This is handy because it allows me to look at different ways we, inadvertently or otherwise, exclude people from our communities of faith and some of the tough questions that arise.
- For example - we have a very word-based visual culture, so what of those who cannot see, those who cannot read English and those who cannot read at all?
- For example - who are the people /people groups we don't like on principle?
- For example - if we define certain lifestyles as 'sinful,' who are we excluding?
We then get questions, for example, about
- How to avoid 'trying to please everyone' and ending up 'offending everyone equally' in worship
- How do strike a balance between 'legalism' and 'laissez faire' attitudes on complex moral dilemmas
Part of my aim, I have to admit, is to try to nudge people beyond their Sunday School answers and to start engaging with some real questions. Alongside the sermons I am producing home study material which will be quite demanding but, I hope, adequately accessible. It is tricky trying to stretch those who have had a university education, encourage those who left school at 14 and avoid either getting sacked or frightening people. But it is fun trying.
Oh, and if Jesus went to Zaccheus' house for tea, as the song says, did he have his fruit and cream before or after his cake? This seems to be a north/south divide issue... answers on a postcard to the usual address