Fall themes for worship and ministry

Who’s in and who’s out?  That’s not just a question for US immigration policy, the refugee crisis in Europe or any number of other contemporary issues.  “Outsiders and Insiders” is also a prominent theme in the lectionary scripture readings we’ll hear in worship this Fall.

The disciples see strangers – outsiders to their fellowship – casting out demons in Jesus’ name.  “Should we stop them?” But Jesus sees them as insiders: “whoever is not against us is for us.”

The disciples attempt to keep children to the outside, away from Jesus as he carries out his important work.  But Jesus brings kids to the center: “let them come to me, for to such belongs the Kingdom of God.”

Two disciples ask that Jesus make them privileged insiders who will sit at his right and left hand in this coming Kingdom.  Jesus encourages his disciples to see the privilege in belonging to and serving the whole human family: “whoever would be great among you must be servant of all.”

One thinks of the privilege of being insiders to Palo Alto and the Silicon Valley.  We get to live in such a beautiful and elite area.  Who is on the outside?

And what about the church itself?  I think of how all newcomers to FLC stretch us to become a more rich and interesting community.  It can be challenging.  In this past year I’ve gotten involved with a synod group that’s looking at ways to foster more diversity in race and ethnicity in our congregations and in church leadership.

So what’s the good news here?  There’s a pattern in the stories: the disciples can’t always see ways people can be included.  Jesus can, and we don’t always like it.  We made of God’s Son an outsider.  We pushed him out to a degrading death – and in doing so, pushed away our hope of being among the saved.  But God raised Jesus up, to bring us in, despite what we’ve done.  What will this experience of grace mean for the rest of our lives?

What now?  In a recent conversation, one of you mentioned being intrigued with how, in the book of Acts, Christianity is known as “The Way.”  The focus of our adult forums this Fall will be on ethics, our way.   Whatever we might think we should do as a country about immigration and other issues of insiders / outsiders, what’s our role, here, as Christians and as a congregation?

For one thing, we have taken up accompaniment for a family seeking asylum in our country.  It has been an adventure for us, raising big questions and involving people in everything from giving to childcare.  It’s been interesting to hear people talk about our FLC’s history of helping refugees and welcoming LGBT people as we look forward to our Centennial.  The theme our stewardship team has chosen for this Fall is about identifying our call to care for all neighbors in need.

A little later, maybe in the new year, I’d like to invite folks to explore Benedictine Spirituality.  In the chaos of the dark ages, desperate or even scary people might look for shelter at monasteries.  Benedict encouraged the Christian monks to welcome all guests as Christ himself.  Even the important leaders would come to greet the guest, bowing or falling prostrate, washing the guests feet, and showing kindness in other ways.  Maybe there’s something we can learn from this dark age wisdom?

It’s Fall – let’s “Rally” – gather together at God’s invitation and continue to learn God’s way of hospitality!