Luke 4: 21-32
In today’s passage, Jesus offended the people in his hometown by telling them not one, but two stories about how God had passed over them and their kin in order to minister to strangers—first the widow from the wrong side of the tracks in Zerephath and then Naaman the Syrian, who was an officer in the army of Israel’s enemies.
It was like telling them God had become a good God, healing of God, to our enemies or that God had passed over a Sunday school teacher who was sick in order to take care of an ailing Hindu.
That is how sensitive we are to being told that our enemies are also God’s friends. That is how mad we get when someone suggests that God loves the people we do not want to sit next to —the people who disturb and offend us.
No matter how hard we try, we cannot seem to get God to respect our boundaries. God keeps plowing right through them, inviting us to follow, or get out of the way. The problem is not that we are less loved. The problem is that people we cannot stand are loved just as much as we are and belong to God just as surely as we do.
If you and I are walking toward each other on a public sidewalk, our difference does not matter. We just make room for each other. And we may even nod and say “howdy.” Doing a church means maybe like a sharing and expanding the sidewalk, where we both belong.
This notion reminds me how we do a church together. You all know that doing a church does not depend on our being in agreement with each other about something other than the Christ. Doing a church means maybe like a sharing and expanding the sidewalk, where we both belong.
What strength do we have as a Disciple church and a denomination? What is our essential characteristic?
“We are the disciples, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.” This is our statement that explains who we are as a church. The point I invite us to focus on about our identity is a “movement.,” echoing of how we share and expand our sidewalks by seeking a common ground.
I invite us to take another step further, not only to seek a common ground, but to seek a higher ground where we all can be humble and honest by taking our shoes off. This is who we are and what we do as a church. We are different.
We believe in a Lord who cares for the stranger reminding us over, and over again that Jesus still comes to us as a stranger. In the church, we are dared to believe that it is God who makes us a community, and not we ourselves, and that our differences are God’s best gifts and tools for opening us up to the truth that is bigger that we are, even beyond our understanding.
We are the Disciples. We are different.