Jesus was consistently inclusive. No one was ever left out. I’d invite you to try to find an example where Jesus intentionally excludes anyone. He will name their relationships quite honestly and correctly, but he never creates “in groups” and “out groups” and, in fact, moves in the very opposite direction. We have the apostles but they were very much connected also to the 72 disciples he sent out in mission and all those who gathered near him.
Yet the common image of most Christian denominations is they are largely exclusionary institutions. How did we ever get to this point? I think it is because most church people, and their leaders, have never transcended the early egocentric level of life.
Even the Eucharist itself is still used, at least in the Catholic tradition, to define the worthy, the pure and the true members, or as a reward for good behavior. Where did this come from? And we do it right after piously mumbling at Catholic Mass, “Lord, I am not worthy.” No one really is worthy, yet we make rules about some people’s connectedness and worthiness although in actual fact, none of us are worthy.
Almost every time Jesus eats, he seems to be eating with the wrong people, at the wrong table, saying the wrong things, or not washing his hands ahead of time. By doing so, Jesus potentially rearranged the social order, because meal etiquette defined and maintained the social order and social class and this is what surely upset both religion and state.
Eucharist still could and will redefine social relationships, but we have not had a lot of success up to now. I think most Protestant ministers and leaders of other faiths find great joy in the first six months of Francis, Bishop of Rome, in his openness and inclusivity. Hopefully God may use him to draw us together. Each of us could work on bringing down walls and seeing the beauty of all of our brothers and sisters.
As the Rev. Peter Little from the Community Presbyterian Church in Buckley noted recently in this column, we all have a mission as followers of Jesus, with a sense of the community of the church and to include all as we reach out as disciples.