When have you felt like an outsider? Remember the experience of not being accepted, or being told that you did not belong? Maybe it happened at school growing up, or in work and professional life. It can be a devastating moment when we are pushed aside, unwanted, made to feel that we are not quite good enough.
Growing up as a preacher’s kid, I was often treated as an outsider in high school. That was painful. There is certrainly still enough sexism in our world that this happens to women, especially in their professional lives. All of the women pastors I know have experienced some of this in the church. There is still enough racism in the world that persons of color are treated as outsiders. We have a lot of fear about strangers in this world, people we do not know. We’re encouraged to be suspicious.
Part of our brain intentionally functions this way to keep us safe. I think this goes way back in our evolutionary cycle when the natural environment was fairly hostile. And yet, one of the ways Jesus surprises people, is the way he welcomes and includes them in the Kingdom of God, people who would otherwise be left out. People who are different. People who are easy to judge and disdain. The kind of people you would never consider inviting to your dinner table. I’m sure Jesus’ listeners were shocked by his teaching here and uncomfortable at the implications of his message.
Jesus tells the parable of the great banquet where many are invited, but then cancel and offer their excuses (I’ve bought some property and can’t come; I just got married). So God goes looking for any who would want to be at God’s table. Will you come? Will you welcome the sisters and brothers God invites to share the bread and wine with you? Sunday we worship God who welcomes us all, who even goes out looking for us when we’re hiding. Sunday we all gather at Christ’s table where we’ll eat the bread of life and share in the cup that makes us one.
Rev. Dr. Dave Summers
Senior Pastor, Paradise Valley United Methodist Church