Summary: We are all broken sinners, and Jesus loves us anyway.
When I was entering the 6th grade my family moved to an entirely different part of the country and I, of course, entered an entirely different school.
It was a horrifying experience.
It was humiliating.
It was dehumanizing.
Why do I say that?
Because, on the first day of school not one person spoke to me or even looked my way.
When it was time for recess, all the other kids ran out to the playground to play soccer or football or whatever--and no one included me.
I just sat alone.
This was new to me.
I had never been alone before.
I had never been marginalized--at least not to this extent!!!
I felt like a nobody.
I couldn't understand why no one wanted to be my friend.
This went on for about a month.
And then, I remember the day that one child actually acknowledged my existence.
It was amazing.
It felt like a break through moment.
I went home exhilarated.
I wonder if you have ever felt like a nobody?
Or perhaps you have felt marginalized or treated as if you are "less than."
How did that make you feel?
Some people spend much of their lives feeling as if they are nobodies.
I have had periods when I have gotten a taste of this, but being raised as a middle to upper middle class white/Anglo Saxon in America really hasn't been very hard.
My parents made sure I always knew I was loved.
I went to college.
I was able to pursue whatever career path I wanted, and then, when I didn't like that path--I went back to school, got my Master's Degree from one of the top University's in the country and here I am doing what I have always felt called to do.
But what about the people who aren't born into such privilege?
At a recent minister's small group the discussion focused on race and poverty.
One of my colleagues--who serves a fairly wealthy lily white church said the following:
"If a couple who were well-dressed, well educated and making perhaps at least $175-$200,000 a year were to visit my church there would probably be about 15-20 people who would come over and greet them.
But if there were an overweight, not very well-dressed woman who came to visit no one would even say 'hi.'"
The last place a person should be marginalized, made to feel less than or like a nobody is in the Church.
And if a person is made to feel this way, one has to wonder if the spirit of the anti-Christ has not taken over the ranks of the congregation.
There can be no doubt that churches in America are on the decline.
It has been happening for quite some time, but has especially begun to speed up most in the past few years.
And it is happening in every denomination--including the non-denominational churches.
Why is this?
Could it be that we have gotten away from what it means to be people who follow Christ--people who truly love God and neighbor?
When asked in a Barna Research study to name the two main reasons why they do not attend church--Americans--especially young Americans said it is because they view churches as being ant-homosexual and judgmental.
Why was it that the church of Jesus Christ grew in the first place?
It was because those on the outside said, "Look how they love!"
"Look how they love the stranger, the outcast, the marginalized, the nobodies."
"I want to be loved like that."
"I want to love like that."
I am so impressed at how YOU--East Ridge United Methodist Church love!!!
You show the love of Christ to everyone who walks through these doors.
It doesn't matter how people dress.
It doesn't matter if they have any money.
It doesn't matter.
You treat everyone the same!!!
That is why YOU are beating the odds.
You are not in decline.
Jesus Christ is working through you.
The Holy Spirit is present.
Love is happening here.
And nobody feels like a nobody in this church.
You know, if I were to pick one story that shows us the most about Who Jesus Christ is, it would be our Gospel Lesson for this morning.
And that is because Jesus breaks just about every single accepted social and religious norm in this passage.
And in doing so, Jesus makes it clear that He is in love with humankind--no matter who they are, no matter their lifestyle, no matter their gender, no matter what!!!
And He treats everyone with dignity, respect, acceptance and love.
As followers of Christ, should we be expected to act any different toward those who fall outside the social and societal norms?
So let's take a look at what is going on in this passage.