Include, serve, welcome – we are truly better together!

Include, serve, welcome – we are truly better together!

Everybody Gets to Play #66

The Sunday before last Karen preached from Mark 8. Jesus’s followers knew they wanted to follow him, but they still had so much to learn. Jesus, again, was followed by a large crowd. Loaves and fish were multiplied – more than once. There were numerous clashes with the Pharisees who did not understand or accept this new idea of what God’s kingdom was to look like. Jesus cautioned his disciples to beware of the common understanding that Messiah would come as royalty for the elite. Rather, Jesus made it abundantly clear that he came for everyone – even Gentiles, slaves, females (for everyone). Jesus warned those who followed him to not be deceived. He presented himself at the ONE loaf, the BREAD of life. Everyone is invited, and there’s enough for each and every person. His love knows no boundaries! God welcomes all of God’s image bearers which includes every person. This new social order was foreign and difficult to grasp. Jesus patiently taught the kingdom message of inclusivity over and over because his heart’s desire was that every single person know that he/she is deeply loved and valued by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

This week Karen continued the series on Mark in chapter 9:30-37. As much as the disciples tried to understand their teacher, they were still confused by some of Jesus’s words and actions. At times Jesus seemed to speak in code (parables, terms like “Son of Man,” etc.) but in this account he spoke in a very straightforward manner about what was to happen soon (his coming death and resurrection). Unlike us, the disciples didn’t have a completed picture of Jesus’s mission. They were in the middle of the story. Though they may have had some religious training, they were confused by much of what they saw and heard. Much like when we hear serious words (ex. hearing the doctor giving a dreaded diagnosis), it’s sometimes hard to take everything in. We may go into a denial mode until the words have time to penetrate. It was a process for the disciples to process everything Jesus was saying.

While we may think it petty for the disciples to be asking, “Who will be the greatest?”, they were living what is often called an honor/shame culture. Status was important. Being perceived as significant mattered. Jesus used his words as well as an object lesson (drawing in a child in an embrace) to communicate what he was trying to convey: there is no pecking order in the kingdom of God. Jesus challenged their thinking by turning what was a common understanding – upside down (the first must be last). In the days in which Jesus’s words were spoken, children we at the bottom of social rank. Because of a high mortality rate, children had few rights because it was uncertain if they would even live to adulthood. They were the ‘least.’ Jesus’s radical paradigm shift was a shock. Who is welcome? Everyone – no exceptions. Each person is created in the image of God and invited with open arms. Karen used her own object lesson in her sermon. Green representing a ‘rag’ used to clean (as the servants we are called to be) and red (as in red doors centuries ago used to indicate a safe and welcoming place).

Where is the Holy Spirit inviting us to serve and to welcome? He gives us opportunities every day to show kindness to others. At LVC we have opportunities to pick up trash, visit Meadowbrook to encourage the residents, gather supplies to give Bart’s company’s visiting workers to let them know they are welcome and appreciated. Karen invited us into a new initiative she’s beginning. Inviting those outside our church to gather for PASTA and a message of welcome and hope.

We have so many opportunities, and we are truly better together.

With you on the journey,

Jim Roberson

Pastoral Care Team, Liberty Vineyard Church

(678) 469-8156

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