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Summary: We are accepted by God because of what Christ Jesus did for us on the cross. We are called, in turn, to extend that acceptance and welcome to all those from all over the world who fill our community.

A Big Gospel Heart

One Sunday a children’s program leader noticed a little girl standing outside the room, looking in

with great eagerness at the fun the other children were having. The leader went outside and invited the little girl inside. "They’ll all laugh at me." "Why do you think that honey?" "Because I don’t have any shoes."

Heartbroken at this little girl’s situation and knowing that she really wanted to join in, the leader

tried to convince the little girl that the other kids would not laugh at her. But despite this the

leader couldn’t persuade the little girl to join in with the other kids. A second leader came over,

and was filled in as to what was going on. He took the little girl aside and spoke with her.

This second leader then left the little girl and rejoined the group to lead the next activity. Before

he started he said, "OK everyone, before we go any further I want you all to take your shoes and socks off and place them by the wall. For the rest of today we’re going to operate with bare-feet." The little girl who had no shoes beamed, ran over and joined in with the rest of the group.

If you are like me, there have been times in your life when you have felt on the outside. You were

excluded for some reason. Perhaps because of your gender, the colour of your skin, your ethnic

background or some other aspect of who you are that just wasn’t acceptable to others. Despite your desire to be a part of something, you were left out in the cold. You didn’t fit in.

Now, not fitting in is usually about being unable or unwilling to conform to someone else’s idea of normal, someone else’s standards. Standards are tough things because, if you think about it, most of the standards and customs that we face are man-made. Boundaries set up to exclude. Walls created to keep things comfortable for those inside the walls.

But what about the church. Is there to be a difference in the church?. Well, if you’ve been here

much in the last few months you’ve heard that the church is to be a place of welcome for all people. An environment where everyone can be equipped and encouraged and treated equally. And accepted. And we’ve heard that that acceptance is firmly rooted...in the acceptance that God has given to us.

But...we fail sometimes too, don’t we. Even in a church this size, we can, if we’re not thoughtful

and careful, create little cliques, lines of inclusion and exclusion. We do this to make ourselves

more comfortable. So we greet those we know, and we’re slower to interact with those we don’t know. It takes more mental energy to get to know new people, so, again, we drift toward those we’re more at home with, perhaps not realizing at all those we’re excluding.

But...how do we change this? How do we prevent walls from growing up between us? How do we let down the walls that may be here already? How can we, if it’s possible, help to make sure that this is a church without walls? Without man-made barriers to full participation in the life of the church.

Two weeks ago Jan spoke about the importance of transparency in community. Last week Kerry talked about discovering that our identity as individuals is in Christ Jesus.


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