What would you like to exclude from this church? Rats? Draughts? Rain? How do we exclude them? Why do we exclude them? This shows that some boundaries are good and even necessary.
But what if I asked. ‘Who would you like to exclude from this church?’ Yes, we may not want to exclude anyone, but do you think there are any people, or groups of people, who feel that they are excluded? If so, what excludes them? What might raise barriers between ‘us’ and ‘them’? In particular, what might we be doing that could create barriers, but we are not even aware of it? Can we imagine ourselves in other people’s shoes - what does a visitor make of us?
What do our readings today suggest about inclusion and exclusion, about who is in and who is not? Are there any reasons why we might exclude someone, or some group? How do we ourselves cope with people whose culture or outlook on life is very different from ours? Who should change - us, them or neither? Most Jewish believers thought that God offered salvation only to the Jews because God had given his law to them (Exodus 19-20). A group in Jerusalem believed that Gentiles (anyone who was not a Jew) could be saved, but only if they followed all the Jewish laws and traditions - in essence if they became Jews before becoming Christians. They were wrong because the gospel was for people in all Jerusalem, in all Judea, in all Samaria and unto the utmost part of the earth (Acts 1:8).
As we are all here together in this church and those who are online, we have different TV programmes that we like and we have different foods that we like. If we go into sport, the gap widens. We all like different things. I suppose it’s like the Four Musketeers; ‘All for one and one for all! This means that even though we are different in many ways, a church is a place where we are ‘all for one and one for all’. We are all for Jesus and Jesus is for all.
Food is an important social and cultural symbol. What to eat, and with whom, establishes boundaries between one community and another especial when groups feel under pressure to conform to wider cultural norms. Peter discovered that changing traditional boundaries was unsettling and even disturbing when he told them of the conversion of Cornelius. The believers in Jerusalem were shocked to hear that Peter had eaten with gentiles.
After the gentiles heard the whole story, they praised God. Their reactions teach us how to handle disagreements with other Christians. Before judging the behaviour of the fellow believers, it is important to hear them out. The Holy Spirit may have something important to teach us through them
The Jewish believers understood how certain prophecies were fulfilled in Christ, but they overlooked other Old Testament teachings. Too often, we are inclined to accept only the parts of God’s word that appeal to us and support our own agendas, ignoring the teachings we don’t like. We must accept all of God’s word as absolute truth, where do you see walls going up in your community?
How might you build bridges instead?
Where is the Holy Spirit to be found at work?
Delores Dufner says – Summoned by the God who made us rich in diversity, gathered in the name of Jesus, richer in unity. Let us bring the gifts that differ and, in splendid, varied ways, sing a new Church into being one in faith and love and praise. For more information on this go to (www.rootsontheweb.com May 2019).
EVERY MONDAY: 7.00 pm – Food Cycle community meal in the Foyer.
EVERY THURSDAY: 7.00 pm – Thursday Fellowship on Zoom. Everyone is welcome to join on Zoom, details as follows:
JUNIOR MISSION FOR ALL – We are hoping to have a JMA sale before long. If anyone has unwanted gifts or items suitable for the sale, please hand them to Janet or Wendy. Thank you.
FOOD BANK – We are now accepting donations again in the food bank collection basket in the foyer. Donations of tins and packets of food will be gratefully received. The donations will be given to the Food Bank at Cotteridge. If you want any further information, please see Hazel. Thank you for your generosity.
LADIES LUNCHEON GROUP meet on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday each month in the Coffee Pot. It is a small, friendly group and anyone wishing to join would be made very welcome.
COFFEE POT MANAGER We have appointed Mrs Lynne Guttridge who commenced her duties on 18th May. The Coffee Pot is open for lunches and snacks on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. To make a booking or for more details please ring 0121-453-7294.
DISABLED TOILET The disabled toilet has been upgraded with new seat and fittings.