Setting the Table: Who is Welcome?

We continued in worship today with Genesis 18 and Luke 5. Last week we had Abraham offering hospitality to his three visitors, this week Abraham continues his hospitality as he walks with them a bit to bless them on their way. In Luke, Jesus calls Levi a tax collector and is immediately criticized for eating with sinners.

The problem with reading Genesis 18 is that is the the setup for the horrible events that happen with the messengers outside of Sodom at Lot’s home. I could have avoided even mentioning Genesis 19, but somehow that seems wrong. Genesis 19 is used again and again to “clobber” the LGBTQ community.  This passage is not about “sex” but about violence and assault.

Trigger warning….in today’s sermon I use the word rape and note that in just one line that we tend to focus on the sex in a woman’s rape, rather than focus on the power and the violence. I also note in our history as a country, men, white men in particular, have used power and violence against African American men to keep them in their place through beatings and lynchings.

This sermon is as long a sermon as I have preached, but I wanted to do justice to the Genesis passage and focus on the real sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. Because of that, I went over the “allotted” TV time, but you get most of the sermon. You can find both the sermon and the whole worship service here.

For those watching live or online I will add what the “manuscript” said, plus the parts I cut out at the end to try and finish up. So, I am sharing the end of the sermon as I wished it had been….

I think it is somewhat easy to look at the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and make very general statements because we think that is not our sin…we have used this story to condemn and make outcast so many people, because it isn’t our sin…the Pharisees or religious leaders found it easy to condemn Levi and the others, because it wasn’t their sin….but when we get right down to the heart of it all….the sin is arrogance, the sin is pride, the sin is the unwillingness to truly do what we need to do for the most vulnerable in our midst. We distance ourselves because “those” people deserve their lot in the life. It is easy to call names, to label, to justify and minimize those who are not like us, those who seem strange and different. So Jesus, when confronted with why he was hanging out with the most unacceptable in society basically says, “you want to know who is welcome at the table, I tell you everyone is. Everyone is worthy of God’s love and grace and I intend to share it with everyone I meet.” Abraham certainly worked to make the stranger welcome and to bless a whole group of people he didn’t even know…Abraham wasn’t perfect, he had deep grief and sorrow, but he followed the call God and even in the darkness of the unfulfilled promise of a child, he brought blessing and hope and faith and love. We are called to do the same.

In the words of John Wesley: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Neither is love content with barely working no evil to our neighbor. Love continually incites us to good: as we have the time and the opportunity in every possible kind and in every possible degree to all….”

It’s time friends, to welcome and accept all people. It’s time to quit building fences to keep people out and time to open wide the doors for the newness of life in Christ to be filling new people with love, with grace, with purpose and with a reminder that each one of us is unique and unrepeatable, we are God’s Beloved children. It is time to lay down the hurled insults, the constant bickering and unbendable positions and begin to find a way to welcome one another and make plans to work toward a community of faith and a world where the love and grace of Jesus is made real not just in the church, but in you and me and in the everyone. This week my friends, We are blessed to be a blessing, to offer new life and hope and love to new people.

 

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