During the past several weeks in worship we’ve been talking about our core values, the ways that show and share our commitments to Christ with others. We say that at Two Rivers Church, we are authentic, beautiful, creative, vulnerable and inclusive. This week, we focused on our value of Inclusivity. So we asked, in the light of Scripture, in our desire to live the way of Jesus, why do we want to say that we as a church are inclusive?
We don’t embrace the value of inclusivity or inclusion because it’s trendy. We don’t even embrace it because it’s the right thing to do. We say we are inclusive because through Jesus and his unending, amazing, world-changing, status quo shattering love for us, we are changed. We are literally a new creation. When we have encountered the love of Jesus, everything in our lives is changed. Our priorities, our thoughts, our fears, our habits, our finances, our relationships – all of it is remade. Because we are made new. Jesus completely shatters our old framework. When we have an encounter with Jesus, we don’t just take up new practices like going to church or reading our Bibles. We don’t just change our calendars to add worship attendance to it. We are completely remade into a new creation.
Remember how in the creation poem in Genesis 1 that God made humans, looked at them and said, “You are good. You are supremely good. You are beautiful?” Our human nature, though, in the way of living like we are beautiful in God’s eyes. We turn our backs on God’s ways – we call that sin. We live like we are in charge, we treat others like they are ugly not beautiful, we disregard the beauty of the earth, we forget or ignore the hurting person in our very family or neighborhood or world. We like to make rules to help us know who is in and who is out in God’s eyes so we will be right in God’s eyes and only hang out with the “right” kind of people. To overcome our human tendency toward these bad behaviors, toward sin, requires more than just effort on our part. We can’t just try hard enough to make better choices. If we truly want to live in the way of Jesus, we have to start all over and become something new.
Because being made new – being remade – stepping into life in a new creation – that changes everything. We are suddenly FREE. No longer do we care about rules that are made to keep some people out of our community and make sure others stay in. Because in the new creation, ALL are part of our community. No longer do we divide people up by how they dress or how much money they have or if they are gender conforming or non conforming – ALL belong in the new creation. No longer do we make people sign a checklist of right beliefs and right action before we deem them worthy of membership in a select group – ALL who follow the ways of Jesus become not just our friends but our family. We are brothers and sisters together in an entire universe’s worth of people.
So, see, friends, how we can’t help but be inclusive here at Two Rivers Church? As Paul said in Galatians 3:28, no longer is there slave nor free, Jew nor Gentile, make and female but ALL are one in Christ Jesus. Our participation in the body of Christ doesn’t wipe away our differences. We are still black or white, gay or straight, rich or poor. We don’t have to cover up or hide or downplay these characteristics But as a new creation, our differences don’t define us in the church. We can’t use them as excuses to stay separate from one another or to fear one another or to judge one another. We are ONE in Jesus.
Our one-ness in Jesus, our connection to him, through him, and in him, is what enables us to say Black Lives Matter – because we, those we love, those who are part of the body of Christ, say that. It’s why we will march in the Pride parade and participate in the Pride worship service – because we and those we love, those who are part of the body of Christ celebrate and claim their place as queer people of faith. It’s why we listen carefully when the African-American residents of our community speak and share their concerns about development of the land their foremothers and forefathers were enslaved on and worked – because we and those we love and those who are part of the body of Christ are deeply concerned. It’s also why we laugh and celebrate and delight in what the children in our church love – because we and those we love and those who are part of the body of Christ love those same things.
We are inclusive. We are one in Christ. We are free—free to love, free to welcome, free to embrace, free to walk with all who are lonely or isolated or afraid. We are Two Rivers Church.