When “Who is my neighbor?” is a hard question to hear

WFPC – Sunday July 7, 2019

Everything and everyone that the Father has given me will come to me, and I won’t turn any of them away. – John 6:7

When the Gospel is too much to take and Christ’s wide open invitation causes offense:

I really enjoy our “10 Summer Sundays” worship series here at WFPC (June 30-Sept 1). Any given week, half the congregation seems to be at the mountains or the beach or the other side of the country or somewhere in Europe so we have just one service, meet in the sanctuary, and pretty much fill up all the space.

All summer long, picking up this year’s Vacation Bible School theme, we’re asking one of Jesus’ favorite questions, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus hammered away at the idea in a hundred different ways.

This was a communion Sunday, so Rebekah rephrased the query for the children, “Who is welcome at the table?”

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You will enjoy Rebekah’s animated and hilarious interaction with the children (starting around the 14.5-minute mark on this video – Rebekah’s Children’s Moment). But if you don’t I can offer the following short summary:

Rebekah: “There are so many different people in the world. Do you think we should tell some of them they can’t come?” “No!!!” the children yelled.

Rebekah: “What if someone just got out of jail?” Kids: “They can still come!”

Rebekah: “What if they don’t look like we do? What if we can’t understand the way they speak? What if we don’t like them?” Kids: “They came come, and we can still be their friends.”

Rebekah: “Whose table is this?” Kids: “It’s God’s table!”

They were quite adamant. “We might not have enough chairs,” one of them said, “but everyone should be able to come and they can all be our friends.”

Then it got interesting:

Here’s where the gospel message gets children all excited but also starts to offend people.

It was a simple children’s moment, based on the fact that Jesus is God’s wide-open invitation. The message reminded children about what they already know intuitively, that everyone is welcome at the table. It was a time with young disciples rooted in scriptures like Matthew 25, and Feeding the 5,000 and The Good Samaritan, and at least a dozen other biblical imperatives to welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, visit those in prison, offer water to the thirsty, clothe the naked – to extend the love God places in our hearts without regard to all the surface features that tend to keep people alienated from one another.

It was a children’s message from the heart of Jesus.

But when Rebekah’s children’s moment was over two visitors visibly huffed their way out of church. They complained to the usher that “evidently” teaching the Bible is no longer important and the children’s time was all about politics! Then, according to one of the greeters, “they stormed out.”

Vibrant gospel life:

Other than feeling sad for these people I can’t help but scratch my head in confusion. The reason this church is so full and overflowing with vibrant life is exactly because we teach the Bible and share the good news of Jesus! The reason this place fairly hums with life and expectation and spiritual connectivity is because everything is rooted in this simple confession: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!”

If hearing the Bible preached and Jesus proclaimed offends your view of the world, then maybe you don’t know the scriptures well enough! If the open invitation of Jesus sounds like a threat to your status quo then it’s a good thing it’s out in the open now, because believe me Jesus is only going to become more intrusive the more you get to know him.

It’s not called politics, it’s called Good News. Jesus offends a lot of people with his call for justice and self-giving love.

They are our neighbors too:

But I really am genuinely sorry these folk didn’t catch the spirit at our church yesterday morning. Fact is, they are our neighbors too, and somehow we were not able to get that message home.

I don’t care where you stand politically, we all stand in the same need of the love of God and the wide-open invitation of Jesus.

That’s the bottom line, always – because everything is rooted in this simple confession: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!”





One thought on “When “Who is my neighbor?” is a hard question to hear

  1. Robin Roper

    I have spend the day perplexed by this reaction. In the time he lived, Jesus was viewed as political – that’s why he was killed. He was preaching a message and living a life that threatened those in power. If ever there were actions that were political, that’s it. I love me some WFPC and those who worship with us as members or visitors – one lifetime, one year, one week or 10 minutes. Return and watch us love Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.


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