I said, “Here I am, here I am,” to a nation that did not call on my name. Isaiah 65:1
“Sir,” the servant said, “what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.” 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.” Luke 14:22–23 (NIV)
It’s really easy to fall into insider thinking.
After all, the insiders are the ones who know the drill. We don’t usually have to work hard to get the insiders to do the same things they’ve been doing. If we want to rest on our laurels in ministry, this is the way to go. Do the same thing that was done last year. Ask the same people to help. Avoid the push back that might come from changing things. It is just SO MUCH EASIER to keep things internal.
Except, that’s not where we are called to be. The easier, softer way is rarely the place we need to be.
Life, and love, and ministry is OUT THERE. In fact, most of our “insiders” live OUT THERE too, most of the week. In fact, the division between “insider” and “outsider” isn’t even real. The folks who come to church every Sunday, were raised Lutheran, and have been members of your church for 50 years – those folks have many of the same questions, doubts, fears, and joys as their non-church-going friends and coworkers.
Not recognizing this dynamic is a bit like waking up in the morning and choosing not to leave the house. While this might be an important thing to do when you’re sick, it’s not a way to live. I learned this lesson from a woman I visited for years in an adult care facility. Even when her situation required her to not “leave the house,” she asked daily to be taken out into the large open area with the other residents so she could talk to them, encourage them, laugh with them, and cry with them. She found ways that fit her physical abilities in which she could still “step out” and be with others.
In my world, if I woke up every morning, refreshed from the night’s sleep, looked out the window, and decided to just stay in the house watching TV, I would be ignoring my call to be a husband, a father, a pastor, and a citizen. If I just chose not to interact with the outside world, I would be missing a large part of life.
In the same way, I believe congregations are called to step out of their doors daily…and not as a bold experiment to attract new members, but because never leaving the house is not a way to live as a church. The weekend in-house gathering that we call Sunday morning worship can be a time of rest, refreshing, and peace…but then we look out the stained glass windows, and prepare for the week ahead. Through our daily interactions with family, friends, coworkers, and strangers, God is saying to the world, “Here I am! Here I am!” The gift of God’s presence is something for the insiders, sure…but it’s also for the “outsiders.”
Today, may we be animated by the thought that there’s more room at the banquet table. May we take it to the streets, because that’s God’s preferred dwelling place. May we know…that never leaving the house just isn’t an option for Christians. We are called today to find ways that fit our abilities in which we can carry God’s love with us wherever we go.
Proclaimer of Justice, you call us to the edges—to gospel work. May we seek not so much to be seen as to see you, where most of the world isn’t looking. Let it be so. Amen.*
*Prayer taken from the Moravian Daily Texts