At church this morning, there were two things that stood out to me. Both related to inclusion.
A. The church service was about the church’s youth camp. A member of the church spoke to us about it. She read us comments from people about their experiences at youth camp.
One story was about a person who did not want to go to youth camp because she was reluctant to leave her room. But she went, and, after she shared her favorite Jolley Ranchers flavor with a group, someone from the staff brought her that flavor of Jolley Ranchers. She was happy to be noticed. She, in turn, tried to notice others there who might have been alone, or had a hard time fitting in, so that she could include them. She said it was interesting to see the quiet people open up!
This was not exactly a formal sermon, but it was a sermon for me, in a way. It was about taking the opportunity to notice people and to do something thoughtful towards them. It was about paying forward to others the love that one has received. It was also about allowing others to share and to speak. I myself am rather quiet, but, once I am given the opportunity to share, I tend to monopolize the group. I should remember to let others share, as well!
That said, I have liked how my church’s Life Group allows everyone to take a turn sharing what went on in their week. I don’t always have much to say, since my life is not that exciting. But I do like how my church’s Life Group gives everyone a chance to talk.
B. We had communion today. The pastor was saying that communion is open to all. He said that, if someone were to go out and commit a heinous crime, and everyone at church knew about it, the pastor would still serve that person communion. I remember the pastor saying the last time we had communion that, if Jesus allowed Judas Iscariot, who was about to betray him, to eat the last supper with the other disciples, who was he (the pastor) to exclude anyone from communion?
I thought about an episode of Michael Brown’s radio program that I listened to a while back. The question was whether there should be any restrictions on who can receive communion, and Michael Brown seemed (at least to me) to think so. He asked if a person who had just committed a murder should be able to walk into church and receive communion.
I tend to lean in the “Why not?” direction. The point of communion is to remind us of God’s love and grace, of Jesus giving his life for us so that we can have a relationship with God. A person who has just committed a heinous crime needs to be reminded of his need for God, so that he can repent. What better way is there to show him that he, too, can turn to God, than to allow him to partake of communion?
The problem, however, is when we are dealing with people who seem to be unaffected by God’s grace, who continue to sin. I think of mafia bosses who are devout Catholics. You would think that, at some point in their attending church, the inconsistency between their faith and practice would cross their minds. I think also of people who are committing adultery on their spouse, and they take their new boyfriend or girlfriend with them to church and expect to take communion with everyone else. Of course, they need grace. But Matthew 18 and I Corinthians 5 have things about church discipline, which is designed to lead people to repentance.