All Means ALL

Luke 14:15-24  (NIV)

The Parable of the Great Banquet

15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

Matthew 14:13-21  (NIV)

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­__________________________________________________

Homily     “ALL means ALL”

By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who understand the sharing of bread and wine in Jesus’ name to be a realization of the vision of God’s feast for all peoples.

On the slip of paper –

Please list the 11 people you would invite to your last meal –

Living or Dead – (and not in this room)

Eleven people who you would want to spend the last hours of your life with at a meal.

Then

Add the name of the person you would NEVER invite  — you can just put initials if you fear someone seeing your response.

______________________

Now, hold onto that paper and look at it again later –

__________________________

____________________________

As Disciples of Christ… our identity statement says:

DOC IDENTITY

We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.

As part of the one body of Christ,

we welcome all to the Lord’s Table

as God has welcomed us.

Each week when I offer a communion meditation and invitation – it is not I who is inviting, I am merely passing along the message that we are ALL invited by God.

It is up to us to answer – we have a choice to accept or decline —

But ALL are invited.

Frederick Buechner

 “The place where God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” 

CLOSED COMMUNION

conclusion

The Orthodox Christian Church, like Her Lord, is not an imaginary and invisible abstraction.

The tradition of any church is concrete and visible, expressed throughout history by real people in a tangible continuum of faith and practice (whether for 2,000 years or two years).

Like the Holy Trinity, the Church is a community, a real communion expressed and embodied by a shared faith and way of life.

ORTHODOX

The maintenance of real communion necessitates borders and boundaries, both doctrinal and disciplinary.

If a church is to be faithful to its own tradition, the door will be opened to some things and closed to others.

But it is how we understand CLOSED and OPEN –

practice of CLOSED communion –

is believed by that tradition to ACTUALLY be OPEN to ALL –

but the ALL actually means those who formally embrace the traditions beliefs and unite themselves to it.

OPEN to those who conform…

CLOSED to those who do not…

A door that is always open is not a door any more.

Certainly true of the Orthodox Church.

Some idea that limiting entrance enhances the significance –

_________________

Illustration:

A pastor once shared this story…

He said:

He told of going                                        to his mother’s hair dresser for a hair cut.

After talking to her he             thought she had some interest in knowing more about God.

He told his             mother that he thought she               wanted to know about God.   

                 His mother responded:                         

“No way! She is on her fifth   husband and is living in sin.”              

______________

John said: “Mom the next                      time you get your hair done                    at the beauty salon ask her                   if she is interested in                     spiritual things?

The next time she went to                   have her hair done she prayed            in her heart as she was taking            a seat in the beauty shop chair.  

        “God you know I don’t want to talk to her about her faith because she’s not the kind of person I want to associate with.                                       If you want me to talk to her then have her ask me first.”

The first thing the beauty operator said when she approached was,

“I understand you and your  husband have a Bible study.               Do you mind if I come sometime?”

She said that her mother was Jewish and her father a Roman Catholic.

Her mother made her go to the synagogue on Saturday and when she came home her dad made her take the rosary and make confession of her sin.

She grew up confused and turned to alcohol for comfort and she could drink with the best of them.

To get help she went to AA meetings but could not think of her “higher power” as God so she called her “higher power” Ralph.

At one of the AA meetings a guy came in half drunk. He stood up and said; “My name is Ralph and I’m an alcoholic.”

The hair dresser said at that point in her life she wanted to know            the true God.

She and her husband started attending the bible study of John’s parents.

_______________________________

ILLUSTRATIONS

The Pharisees could not understand why the common people, outcasts of society followed Jesus who claimed to be a Rabbi and Teacher. The kind of people Jesus ate with and fellowshipped with would not be tolerated in their homes.

Jesus did not go along with the Jewish customs of His day.

He invited all to His Table. There is room for all at God’s Table.

When feeding the 5000, Jesus did hot single out who could or could not share in the meal.

This was in direct contrast to the Pharisees who believed that only certain people are welcome at God’s Table.

That is how most traditions viewed communion until recently –

Only children of members of a tradition would be baptized –

Only those who were members could partake in the meal –

Everyone was welcome… as long as they had joined the family…

In my childhood tradition, we celebrated Communion only 4 times a year…

Prior to serving – the minister made it clear that this table was for members of our church ONLY… baptized into the faith, and members of our particular church.

Last fall the Chaplain Residents were participating in a Celebration Mass, and before the Eucharist, each was told NOT to participate in the bread and wine unless they were Catholic.

Not only were they not invited… they were individually excluded…

Does this fulfill our understanding of God’s mission for t he world…

________________________________________

Tony Campolo Throws a Party for a Prostitute

In his book The Kingdom of God Is a Party, Tony Campolo relates an experience he had late one night in Hawaii.

Up a side street I found a little place that was still open. I went in, took a seat on one of the stools at the counter, and waited to be served. This was one of those sleazy places that deserves the name, “greasy spoon.” I did not even touch the menu. I was afraid that if I opened the thing something gruesome would crawl out. But it was the only place I could find.

The fat guy behind the counter came over and asked me, “What d’ya want?”

I said I wanted a cup of coffee and a donut.

He poured a cup of coffee, wiped his grimy hand on his smudged apron, and then he grabbed a donut off the shelf behind him. I’m a realist. I know that in the back room of that restaurant, donuts are probably dropped on the floor and kicked around. But when everything is out front where I could see it, I really would have appreciated it if he had used a pair of tongs and placed the donut on some wax paper.

As I sat there munching on my donut and sipping my coffee at 3:30 in the morning, the door of the diner suddenly swung open and, to my discomfort, in marched eight or nine provocative and boisterous prostitutes.

It was a small place, and they sat on either side of me.

Their talk was loud and crude. I felt completely out of place and was just about to make my getaway when I overheard the woman beside me say, “Tomorrow’s my birthday. I’m going to be 39.”

Her “friend” responded in a nasty tone, “So what do you want from me? A birthday party? What do you want? Ya want me to get you a cake and sing ‘Happy Birthday’?”

“Come on,” said the woman sitting next to me. “Why do you have to be so mean? I was just telling you, that’s all. Why do you have to put me down? I was just telling you it was my birthday. I don’t want anything from you. I mean, why should you give me a birthday party? I’ve never had a birthday party in my whole life. Why should I have one now?”

When I heard that, I made a decision. I sat and waited until the women had left. Then I called over the fat guy behind the counter, and I asked him, “Do they come in here every night?”

“Yeah!” he answered.

“The one right next to me, does she come here every night?”

“Yeah!” he said. “That’s Agnes.     Yeah, she comes in here every     night. Why d’ya wanta know?”

“Because I heard her say that tomorrow is her birthday,” I told him. “What do you say you and I do something about that?       What do you think about us throwing a      birthday party for her—right here—     tomorrow night?”

A cute smile slowly crossed his chubby cheeks, and he answered with measured delight, “That’s great! I like it! That’s a great idea!”

Calling to his wife, who did the cooking in the back room, he shouted,                        “Hey! Come out here! This guy’s got a great idea. Tomorrow’s Agnes’s birthday.

This guy wants us to go in with him and throw a birthday party for her—right here—tomorrow night!”

His wife came out of the back room all bright and smiley. She said, “That’s wonderful! You know Agnes is one of those people who is really nice and kind, and nobody does anything nice and kind for her.”

“Look,” I told them, “if it’s okay with you, I’ll get back here tomorrow morning about 2:30 and decorate the place. I’ll even get a birthday cake!”

“No way,” said Harry (that was his name). “The birthday cake’s my thing. I’ll make the cake.”

At 2:30 the next morning, I was back      at the diner. I had picked up some    crepe-paper decorations at the store and had made a sign out of big pieces of    cardboard that read, “Happy Birthday, Agnes!”

I decorated the diner from one end to the other. I had that diner looking good.

The woman who did the cooking must have gotten the word out on the street, because by 3:15 every prostitute in Honolulu was in the place.

It was wall-to-wall prostitutes…and me!

At 3:30 on the dot, the door of the diner swung open, and in came Agnes and her friend.

I had everybody ready (after all, I was kind of the M.C. of the affair) and when they came in we all screamed, “Happy birthday!”

Never have I seen a person so flabbergasted…so stunned…so shaken. Her mouth fell open. Her legs seemed to buckle a bit. Her friend grabbed her arm to steady her.

As she was led to sit on one of the stools along the counter, we all sang “Happy Birthday”‘ to her.

As we came to the end of our singing with “happy birthday, dear Agnes, happy birthday to you,” her eyes moistened. Then, when the birthday cake with all the candles on it was carried out, she lost it and just openly cried.

Harry gruffly mumbled, “Blow out the candles, Agnes! Come on! Blow out the candles! If you don’t blow out the candles, I’m gonna hafta blow out the candles.”

 And, after an endless few seconds,      he did.

Then he handed her a knife and told her,

“Cut the cake, Agnes. Yo, Agnes,   we all want some cake.”

Agnes looked down at the cake. Then without taking her eyes off it, she slowly and softly said,

 “Look, Harry, is it all right with you if I…I mean is it okay if I kind of…

what I want to ask you is…is it O.K. if I keep the cake a little while?

 I mean, is it all right if we don’t eat it    right away?”

Harry shrugged and answered,

“Sure! It’s O.K. If you want to keep the cake, keep the cake.

Take it home, if you want to.”

“Can I?” she asked. Then, looking at me, she said, “I live just down the street a couple of doors. I want to take the cake home, okay?       I’ll be right back. Honest!”

She got off the stool, picked up the cake, and carrying it like it was the Holy Grail, walked slowly toward the door.

As we all just stood there motionless, she left.

When the door closed, there was a stunned silence in the place. Not knowing what else to do, I broke the silence by saying,

“What do you say we pray?”

Looking back on it now, it seems more than strange for a sociologist to be leading a prayer meeting with a bunch of prostitutes in a diner in Honolulu at 3:30 in the morning.

But then it just felt like the right thing to do. I prayed for Agnes. I prayed for her salvation. I prayed that her life would be changed and that God would be good to her.

When I finished, Harry leaned over the counter and with a trace of hostility in his voice, he said,

 “Hey! You never told me you were a preacher. What kind of church do you belong to?”

In one of those moments when just the right words came, I answered,

 “I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3:30 in the morning.”

Harry waited a moment and then almost sneered as he answered, “No you don’t. There’s no church like that.

If there was, I’d join it. I’d join a church like that!”

Wouldn’t we all? Wouldn’t we all like to join a church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3:30 in the morning?

Well, that’s the kind of church that Jesus came to create!

Jesus changed the game –

He did not fall in line – and follow the status quo  —

He came to remind us of God’s vision for the world… unity – love — equality — harmony — peace —

At his table – he had 12 disciples to share the meal….. but none of them qualified to be called faithful…

1 betrayed him

1 denied him three times

The rest ran away and abandoned him

But he invited them to dine with him any way. They were welcome in spite of how much or how little faith they had.

They didn’t meet the standards – but were welcome anyway…

We can’t claim to be worthy to sit at this table… but we are invited and welcome.

Scholars like Borg and Crossan consider the stories of Jesus’ open tables to be the most powerful and influential examples of God’s love for ALL people.

Jesus dined with Zacchaeus – a tax collector

He dined with Levi – another tax collector  and invited him to come and follow him.

Jesus dined with Simon – of elite social status, when a woman of lowly status crashed the dinner and anointed his feet. He welcomed her, when his host wanted her removed.

Feeding the 5000 was not his responsibility – these were people from ALL backgrounds – women and childrens who had no status

His tables had no seat of honor…no hierarchy – and no limit. All were invited and all were welcome.

WE are not just celebrating the last meal when we come to the table – we are celebrating ALL the meals…

because Jesus as Borg says, “One of Jesus’ most characteristic activities was an OPEN and INCLUSIVE table.”

John Dominic Crossan writes that Jesus’ open table fellowship is a core teaching component and symbol of his life.

It is a view of absolute equality of people that denies the validity of any discrimination between them.

When we come to the table, we are living out an expression of God’s love –

In sharing the bread and cup unconditionally – as God’s love is shared unconditionally –

And for ALL  —

“All Means ALL”

Luke 14:15-24  (NIV)

The Parable of the Great Banquet

15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

Matthew 14:13-21  (NIV)

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­__________________________________________________

Homily     “ALL means ALL”

By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who understand the sharing of bread and wine in Jesus’ name to be a realization of the vision of God’s feast for all peoples.

On the slip of paper –

Please list the 11 people you would invite to your last meal –

Living or Dead – (and not in this room)

Eleven people who you would want to spend the last hours of your life with at a meal.

Then

Add the name of the person you would NEVER invite  — you can just put initials if you fear someone seeing your response.

______________________

Now, hold onto that paper and look at it again later –

__________________________

____________________________

As Disciples of Christ… our identity statement says:

DOC IDENTITY

We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.

As part of the one body of Christ,

we welcome all to the Lord’s Table

as God has welcomed us.

Each week when I offer a communion meditation and invitation – it is not I who is inviting, I am merely passing along the message that we are ALL invited by God.

It is up to us to answer – we have a choice to accept or decline —

But ALL are invited.

Frederick Buechner

 “The place where God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” 

CLOSED COMMUNION

conclusion

The Orthodox Christian Church, like Her Lord, is not an imaginary and invisible abstraction.

The tradition of any church is concrete and visible, expressed throughout history by real people in a tangible continuum of faith and practice (whether for 2,000 years or two years).

Like the Holy Trinity, the Church is a community, a real communion expressed and embodied by a shared faith and way of life.

ORTHODOX

The maintenance of real communion necessitates borders and boundaries, both doctrinal and disciplinary.

If a church is to be faithful to its own tradition, the door will be opened to some things and closed to others.

But it is how we understand CLOSED and OPEN –

practice of CLOSED communion –

is believed by that tradition to ACTUALLY be OPEN to ALL –

but the ALL actually means those who formally embrace the traditions beliefs and unite themselves to it.

OPEN to those who conform…

CLOSED to those who do not…

A door that is always open is not a door any more.

Certainly true of the Orthodox Church.

Some idea that limiting entrance enhances the significance –

_________________

Illustration:

A pastor once shared this story…

He said:

He told of going                                        to his mother’s hair dresser for a hair cut.

After talking to her he             thought she had some interest in knowing more about God.

He told his             mother that he thought she               wanted to know about God.   

                 His mother responded:                         

“No way! She is on her fifth   husband and is living in sin.”              

______________

John said: “Mom the next                      time you get your hair done                    at the beauty salon ask her                   if she is interested in                     spiritual things?

The next time she went to                   have her hair done she prayed            in her heart as she was taking            a seat in the beauty shop chair.  

        “God you know I don’t want to talk to her about her faith because she’s not the kind of person I want to associate with.                                       If you want me to talk to her then have her ask me first.”

The first thing the beauty operator said when she approached was,

“I understand you and your  husband have a Bible study.               Do you mind if I come sometime?”

She said that her mother was Jewish and her father a Roman Catholic.

Her mother made her go to the synagogue on Saturday and when she came home her dad made her take the rosary and make confession of her sin.

She grew up confused and turned to alcohol for comfort and she could drink with the best of them.

To get help she went to AA meetings but could not think of her “higher power” as God so she called her “higher power” Ralph.

At one of the AA meetings a guy came in half drunk. He stood up and said; “My name is Ralph and I’m an alcoholic.”

The hair dresser said at that point in her life she wanted to know            the true God.

She and her husband started attending the bible study of John’s parents.

_______________________________

ILLUSTRATIONS

The Pharisees could not understand why the common people, outcasts of society followed Jesus who claimed to be a Rabbi and Teacher. The kind of people Jesus ate with and fellowshipped with would not be tolerated in their homes.

Jesus did not go along with the Jewish customs of His day.

He invited all to His Table. There is room for all at God’s Table.

When feeding the 5000, Jesus did hot single out who could or could not share in the meal.

This was in direct contrast to the Pharisees who believed that only certain people are welcome at God’s Table.

That is how most traditions viewed communion until recently –

Only children of members of a tradition would be baptized –

Only those who were members could partake in the meal –

Everyone was welcome… as long as they had joined the family…

In my childhood tradition, we celebrated Communion only 4 times a year…

Prior to serving – the minister made it clear that this table was for members of our church ONLY… baptized into the faith, and members of our particular church.

Last fall the Chaplain Residents were participating in a Celebration Mass, and before the Eucharist, each was told NOT to participate in the bread and wine unless they were Catholic.

Not only were they not invited… they were individually excluded…

Does this fulfill our understanding of God’s mission for t he world…

________________________________________

Tony Campolo Throws a Party for a Prostitute

In his book The Kingdom of God Is a Party, Tony Campolo relates an experience he had late one night in Hawaii.

Up a side street I found a little place that was still open. I went in, took a seat on one of the stools at the counter, and waited to be served. This was one of those sleazy places that deserves the name, “greasy spoon.” I did not even touch the menu. I was afraid that if I opened the thing something gruesome would crawl out. But it was the only place I could find.

The fat guy behind the counter came over and asked me, “What d’ya want?”

I said I wanted a cup of coffee and a donut.

He poured a cup of coffee, wiped his grimy hand on his smudged apron, and then he grabbed a donut off the shelf behind him. I’m a realist. I know that in the back room of that restaurant, donuts are probably dropped on the floor and kicked around. But when everything is out front where I could see it, I really would have appreciated it if he had used a pair of tongs and placed the donut on some wax paper.

As I sat there munching on my donut and sipping my coffee at 3:30 in the morning, the door of the diner suddenly swung open and, to my discomfort, in marched eight or nine provocative and boisterous prostitutes.

It was a small place, and they sat on either side of me.

Their talk was loud and crude. I felt completely out of place and was just about to make my getaway when I overheard the woman beside me say, “Tomorrow’s my birthday. I’m going to be 39.”

Her “friend” responded in a nasty tone, “So what do you want from me? A birthday party? What do you want? Ya want me to get you a cake and sing ‘Happy Birthday’?”

“Come on,” said the woman sitting next to me. “Why do you have to be so mean? I was just telling you, that’s all. Why do you have to put me down? I was just telling you it was my birthday. I don’t want anything from you. I mean, why should you give me a birthday party? I’ve never had a birthday party in my whole life. Why should I have one now?”

When I heard that, I made a decision. I sat and waited until the women had left. Then I called over the fat guy behind the counter, and I asked him, “Do they come in here every night?”

“Yeah!” he answered.

“The one right next to me, does she come here every night?”

“Yeah!” he said. “That’s Agnes.     Yeah, she comes in here every     night. Why d’ya wanta know?”

“Because I heard her say that tomorrow is her birthday,” I told him. “What do you say you and I do something about that?       What do you think about us throwing a      birthday party for her—right here—     tomorrow night?”

A cute smile slowly crossed his chubby cheeks, and he answered with measured delight, “That’s great! I like it! That’s a great idea!”

Calling to his wife, who did the cooking in the back room, he shouted,                        “Hey! Come out here! This guy’s got a great idea. Tomorrow’s Agnes’s birthday.

This guy wants us to go in with him and throw a birthday party for her—right here—tomorrow night!”

His wife came out of the back room all bright and smiley. She said, “That’s wonderful! You know Agnes is one of those people who is really nice and kind, and nobody does anything nice and kind for her.”

“Look,” I told them, “if it’s okay with you, I’ll get back here tomorrow morning about 2:30 and decorate the place. I’ll even get a birthday cake!”

“No way,” said Harry (that was his name). “The birthday cake’s my thing. I’ll make the cake.”

At 2:30 the next morning, I was back      at the diner. I had picked up some    crepe-paper decorations at the store and had made a sign out of big pieces of    cardboard that read, “Happy Birthday, Agnes!”

I decorated the diner from one end to the other. I had that diner looking good.

The woman who did the cooking must have gotten the word out on the street, because by 3:15 every prostitute in Honolulu was in the place.

It was wall-to-wall prostitutes…and me!

At 3:30 on the dot, the door of the diner swung open, and in came Agnes and her friend.

I had everybody ready (after all, I was kind of the M.C. of the affair) and when they came in we all screamed, “Happy birthday!”

Never have I seen a person so flabbergasted…so stunned…so shaken. Her mouth fell open. Her legs seemed to buckle a bit. Her friend grabbed her arm to steady her.

As she was led to sit on one of the stools along the counter, we all sang “Happy Birthday”‘ to her.

As we came to the end of our singing with “happy birthday, dear Agnes, happy birthday to you,” her eyes moistened. Then, when the birthday cake with all the candles on it was carried out, she lost it and just openly cried.

Harry gruffly mumbled, “Blow out the candles, Agnes! Come on! Blow out the candles! If you don’t blow out the candles, I’m gonna hafta blow out the candles.”

 And, after an endless few seconds,      he did.

Then he handed her a knife and told her,

“Cut the cake, Agnes. Yo, Agnes,   we all want some cake.”

Agnes looked down at the cake. Then without taking her eyes off it, she slowly and softly said,

 “Look, Harry, is it all right with you if I…I mean is it okay if I kind of…

what I want to ask you is…is it O.K. if I keep the cake a little while?

 I mean, is it all right if we don’t eat it    right away?”

Harry shrugged and answered,

“Sure! It’s O.K. If you want to keep the cake, keep the cake.

Take it home, if you want to.”

“Can I?” she asked. Then, looking at me, she said, “I live just down the street a couple of doors. I want to take the cake home, okay?       I’ll be right back. Honest!”

She got off the stool, picked up the cake, and carrying it like it was the Holy Grail, walked slowly toward the door.

As we all just stood there motionless, she left.

When the door closed, there was a stunned silence in the place. Not knowing what else to do, I broke the silence by saying,

“What do you say we pray?”

Looking back on it now, it seems more than strange for a sociologist to be leading a prayer meeting with a bunch of prostitutes in a diner in Honolulu at 3:30 in the morning.

But then it just felt like the right thing to do. I prayed for Agnes. I prayed for her salvation. I prayed that her life would be changed and that God would be good to her.

When I finished, Harry leaned over the counter and with a trace of hostility in his voice, he said,

 “Hey! You never told me you were a preacher. What kind of church do you belong to?”

In one of those moments when just the right words came, I answered,

 “I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3:30 in the morning.”

Harry waited a moment and then almost sneered as he answered, “No you don’t. There’s no church like that.

If there was, I’d join it. I’d join a church like that!”

Wouldn’t we all? Wouldn’t we all like to join a church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3:30 in the morning?

Well, that’s the kind of church that Jesus came to create!

Jesus changed the game –

He did not fall in line – and follow the status quo  —

He came to remind us of God’s vision for the world… unity – love — equality — harmony — peace —

At his table – he had 12 disciples to share the meal….. but none of them qualified to be called faithful…

1 betrayed him

1 denied him three times

The rest ran away and abandoned him

But he invited them to dine with him any way. They were welcome in spite of how much or how little faith they had.

They didn’t meet the standards – but were welcome anyway…

We can’t claim to be worthy to sit at this table… but we are invited and welcome.

Scholars like Borg and Crossan consider the stories of Jesus’ open tables to be the most powerful and influential examples of God’s love for ALL people.

Jesus dined with Zacchaeus – a tax collector

He dined with Levi – another tax collector  and invited him to come and follow him.

Jesus dined with Simon – of elite social status, when a woman of lowly status crashed the dinner and anointed his feet. He welcomed her, when his host wanted her removed.

Feeding the 5000 was not his responsibility – these were people from ALL backgrounds – women and childrens who had no status

His tables had no seat of honor…no hierarchy – and no limit. All were invited and all were welcome.

WE are not just celebrating the last meal when we come to the table – we are celebrating ALL the meals…

because Jesus as Borg says, “One of Jesus’ most characteristic activities was an OPEN and INCLUSIVE table.”

John Dominic Crossan writes that Jesus’ open table fellowship is a core teaching component and symbol of his life.

It is a view of absolute equality of people that denies the validity of any discrimination between them.

When we come to the table, we are living out an expression of God’s love –

In sharing the bread and cup unconditionally – as God’s love is shared unconditionally –

And for ALL  —

Not, Wrong or right, just different

“Acts 17:22-28 New International Version (NIV)

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[a] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[b]

Different Religions

Different goals

Different problems

Different approaches

Different understandings

Different filters

Different fears

Different loves

Renditions of Songs

Who likes liver and onions?

Who eats oysters on half shell?

Who likes the color pink?

Who would live in an underground home?

Bigotry —-        Intolerance toward those who                         hold different opinions from oneself. 

Stronger than prejudice —     Meanspirited

Racism —- Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against  someone of a different race based on the belief that                    one’s own race is superior.

Prejudice— preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or                             actual experience.

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Bible Belt – The Story of My original tradition —

      John Wesley, a Methodist elder had died and was walking up to the pearly gates –

      St. Peter asked his name and went about checking his BOOK of LIFE to see if the elder’s name was written there.

Upon finding his name,  St. Peter welcomed John Wesley, and went about showing him through the gates and into the heavenly mansion.

Walking down the hall, St. Peter pointed out the football field size library, the room filled with thousands of Musical recordings, and the banquet hall with a table of food so long, John could not see the end of it…

As they went on, they passed by open rooms of Native Americans, sitting and pounding drums –

They passed by a room of Catholics playing  Bingo and drinking wine.

Soon they walked by a room of Jews who were eating Matza Ball soup and Challa Bread –

As they continued through the mansion, the cacophony of sound began to fade…  until they were walking in silence.

They turned down another hall and John noticed the doors on all of the rooms were closed.

He started to ask St. Peter about the doors, and St. Peter quickly covered John’s mouth and shhhushed him….

St. Peter took John’s hand and quickly walked him to the end of the hallway and out a side door.

John looked at St. Peter in confusion – and St. Peter apologized for his abrupt behavior, but if they had made any noise,

The Baptists would have discovered they weren’t the only ones here.

Catholic  vs   Southern Baptist  

      Catholic –  Not Christian but Catholic

                  Idol worshipers

                  Put Mary above Jesus

                  Said Mary Mother of God

            Pope comes before God

            Infant Baptism is meritless-                   not scriptural

      SB – Not Christian but Protestant

                  Believer’s baptism – baptism, which was seen as an attack               on the “salvation by works” theology widely taught by the                  Roman Catholic Church

Families split over inter-faith marriages

Om 2008, Hindus attacked more than 20 Christian churches in southern India.

Christians waged crusades under the banner    of the cross. Not only did they kill Muslims,

they also murdered other Christians over   doctrinal matters and unleashed     centuries of systematic anti-Semitism. 

ISIS militants have tortured, raped, kidnapped, and executed Christians in       Iraq and Syria, despite claiming that Christians who pay a special tax (jizya) would receive ISIS’s protection.

According to a July 2016 report by the      Hudson Institute, ISIS’s jizya option   is a deceptive propaganda ploy used to extort Christians with no regard for their     protection or religious freedom. The group urges attacks on Christians outside of its territorial strongholds. (Source: Hudson Institute)

THE THIRD RISE of KKK in 50s and 60s

Restricting membership to white Christians,    the Klan wore white robes to symbolize “purity,” burned crosses to signify “the Light of Christ” and picked selective scriptures from the Bible to preach white supremacy.

Perhaps what’s wrong with Christianity  —is we have LEFT – the original WAY  —

what people called the movement of the first followers of Jesus –

  • The WAY that was open to all people  —                                  it was a new way of life –
  • a change or transformation of life…                                                A dynamic act of DOING –

Gradually,  it changed into what we  call      RELIGION…

It is A static BELIEF system –

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Is Christianity a RELIGION ??

Well, yes and no.

Yes, it is a religion. It has creeds and rules and beliefs, and Holy Scriptures, and official bodies, and adherents, and heretics, and saints, and on and on.

And no, it is not a religion. At least, if we use the term accurately…

The word religion comes from the Latin word “Re-Ligare”. “

Ligare” means “to bind” or to “connect”.

Adding the “re” before “ligare” causes the word to meanRe-Bind” or “Re-Connect.”

So, if Christianity is  A BELIEF SYSTEM  —

Then Christians are identified on the basis of their BELIEF not how they LIVE

For six days of the week-              Life for most Christians is       indistinguishable from that of nonbelievers.

If our Christianity is a BELIEF SYSTEM – and  When we believe that only we have the truth, we become elitist, aggressive for converts, overly protective of our system, and thereby consider all who would differ from us our enemies.

US verses THEM

We have the ONLY answer –

I do not understand why something is valuable only if it can be had be a few – “I have it and you don’t” “I’m saved, and you’re not”

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We all know church goers like that – or have in our lifetime – and probably thought something like that – whew, I am safe…

Ironically, one of the most important and controversial teaching of Jesus  — is his command that we should love our enemies.

He put it this way, 27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6: 27-28

How we respond to this command of Jesus will determine Christianity’s value to     the world.

For centuries,  many Christian traditions, believed the non- Christian religions of the world are our enemies.

In the Crusades, armies were literally sent to convert or kill out the non-believers

We sent send armies of missionaries to other countries and even in our own county convert them to our religion.

WE SENT missionaries – and not just to make the heathens Christians – BUT our brand of Christians…

Often destroying their cultures in the process…

We see some of the fall out from that today…

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Talking with some members of the United Methodist Tradition – they experienced the same issue concerning the international vote to marry and ordain members of the LGBTQ that our denomination experienced –

The more conservative/fundamental countries out number the progressive…liberal.. members.

A United Methodist friend said we only have ourselves to blame – when the more conservative nations around the world have not progressed to a liberal theology…

Before these countries had contact with the rest of the world —They had a more open theology But then our missionaries convinced them they were wrong…

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Tolerance, acceptance and welcoming of different faiths come at a high price and a deadly slow pace…

     What would Christianity look like when it is stripped bare of the RELIGIOUS trappings?


When all of the formality – legality and restrictions are erased?

In the time of Dietrich Bonhoeffer – the world was in turmoil with Hitler and the race war –

Bonhoeffer began to struggle with what remains when the typical traits of a religion—clergy, rites, holy things, beliefs, and morality—are eliminated.

How would that redefine Christianity? What bothered Bonhoeffer was that a person could confess doctrinally correct beliefs, observe its moral codes, and follow the accepted behaviors and       practices of the Church, while simultaneously committing unspeakable horrors.

We have witnessed the same thing in the American South—the “Bible Belt”—where harassment, persecution and lynchings of African-Americans was a norm for “white Christians.”   

Where racial discrimination was justified by narrow minded interpretation of scripture.\

Example: Colossians 3: 22Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.

This was justification for slavery and continuing to discriminate against African Americans

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My heart tells me whenever we err in how we interpret scripture – we should err on the side of LOVE – not power…. Not exclusion – but love

I would rather explain my loving the wrong person than my hating someone….

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Houses of worship around the world, a place of reflection and peace, have been targeted for attack by extremists. Here are some of the deadly assaults over the last decade:

July 16, 2010: Jundallah group kills 27 and injures 270 after it carries out a double suicide bombing against another Shiite mosque in southeastern Iran.

Oct. 31, 2010: Al-Qaida in Iraq militants attack Our Lady of Salvation Catholic Church in Baghdad during Sunday night mass, killing 58 people in the deadliest assault targeting Christians since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion there. Al-Qaida in Iraq later became the Islamic State group.

Dec. 15, 2010: Two suicide bombers from the Sunni extremist group Jundallah blow themselves up near a mosque in southeastern Iran, including six Revolutionary Guard commanders.

Aug. 5, 2012: Six members of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, in Oak Creek, are fatally shot by a white supremacist, Wade Michael Page. Page was shot by a responding officer and later killed himself.

Nov. 18, 2014: Two Palestinians using axes, knives and a gun kill four Jewish worshippers and an Israeli police officer in an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue.

Jan. 30, 2015: Suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque in the Pakistani town of Shikarpur kills 71. Jundullah claims responsibility.

March 20, 2015: Islamic State suicide bombers attack a pair of mosques in Yemen’s capital, unleashing monstrous blasts that ripped through worshippers and killed 137 people.

June 17, 2015: Nine black worshippers including a pastor are killed by Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white supremacist, after he prayed with them in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof was convicted of federal hate-crime and obstruction-of-religion charges and sentenced to death.

Sept. 24, 2015: A suicide bomber strikes a mosque in Yemen’s rebel-held capital, killing 25 worshippers during prayers for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

Nov. 12, 2016: Suicide bomber from Islamic State group kills over 50 at the shrine of Shah Noorani, in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.

Dec. 11, 2016: Suicide bomber strikes inside a Cairo chapel adjacent to St. Mark’s Cathedral, seat of Egypt’s ancient Coptic Orthodox Church. The Islamic State group claimed the attack, which killed at least 25 people.

Jan. 29, 2017: A gunman killed six men during evening prayers at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City. Alexandre Bissonnette pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and attempted murder charges and was sentenced to serve 40 years in prison before being eligible for parole.

Feb. 16, 2017: Suicide bomber detonates his explosives vest among the devotees at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Pakistan’s Sindh province, killing 98.

April 9, 2017: Twin suicide bombings rock churches in the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria and Tanta, killing at least 45 people. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group.

June 15, 2017: A suicide bomber kills four people at a Shiite mosque in Afghanistan‘s capital city of Kabul. Among the dead is a leader of Afghanistan’s ethnic Hazaras, who are mostly Shiite Muslims.

Aug. 1, 2017: A suicide bomber storms into the largest Shiite mosque in Afghanistan’s western Herat province, opening fire on worshippers before blowing himself up, killing at least 90 people. Hundreds more were wounded in the attack, which happened during evening prayers.

Aug. 25, 2017: Militants storm a packed Shiite mosque in Kabul during Friday prayers. The attack ends with at least 28 worshippers killed and 50 wounded, many of them children. Two of the assailants blow themselves up and another two are shot dead by Afghan security forces.

Sept. 29, 2017: A suicide bomber blows himself up outside a Shiite mosque in Kabul, killing five. The attack took place as worshippers were leaving the mosque after Friday prayers.

Oct. 20, 2017: The Islamic State group claims a suicide bomber attack, killing 31 and wounding 29 people, at a Shiite mosque in Kabul.

Nov. 5, 2017: Dressed in black tactical-style gear and armed with an assault weapon, 26-year-old Devin Kelley opened fire at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 people and wounding about 20 others.

Nov. 24, 2017: Militants kill 311 worshippers in a mosque attack in north Sinai, the deadliest such terrorist attack in Egypt’s modern history.

Dec. 17, 2017: Islamic State attack on a church in Pakistani city of Quetta kills 16 people.

Aug. 3, 2018: Suicide bombers disguised in burqa robes attack a Shiite mosque in eastern Afghanistan, killing 27 people.

Oct. 27, 2018: A gunman believed to have spewed anti-Semitic slurs and rhetoric on social media entered Tree of Life Congregation synagogue in Pittsburgh and opened fire, killing 11 and wounding six, including four police officers.

Jan. 27, 2019: Two suicide attackers detonate two bombs during a Mass in a Roman Catholic cathedral on the largely Muslim island of Jolo in the southern Philippines, killing 23 and wounding about 100 others. Three days later, an attacker hurls a grenade in a mosque in nearby Zamboanga city, killing two religious teachers.

March 15, 2019: At least 40 people are killed in an attack at mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

By calling ourselves progressive, thinking Christians, we mean that we are Christians who recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God’s realm, and acknowledge that their ways are as true for them, as our ways are true for us.