Sermons

Summary: December 1989: Jesus is building His kingdom, and some who presume they are included are missing it, while some we think unworthy will be included. This is a day in which we must stretch our outreach to include all persons.

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The folks who are into real estate will tell you that there are only three factors which enter into the value of a piece of property. Those three factors determine how much you should pay for that dream home, how much you should ask when you have decided to sell out and move up, and how loud you should scream when the new tax assessments come out.

Those three factors, they say, are: location, location, and location.

I think that is really just another way of saying that all homes are created equal, but some are more equal than others.

If you read in the real estate pages that a particular property is in an exclusive location, what does that suggest to you? It may suggest, if it is exclusive, that it is expensive; or it may sound as though it’s off in the woods somewhere, hard to find. Or, in all honesty, it may just sound as though it means you and I need not aspire to live there.

Exclusive real estate, exclusive clubs, exclusive department stores, everywhere they seem to make a selling point out of exclusiveness... which raises an interesting thought.

If you sell something on the basis of its being exclusive, doesn’t that mean that if you are successful in selling a lot of that something, it isn’t exclusive any longer?

There is something in us that wants to be among the elite. There is something deep down inside that demands to know whether we are in and somebody else is out. There is an allure about something which is exclusive, as long as I am not the one excluded. And so we want to know where we stand.

Some of us who live in Montgomery County, Maryland, were drawn there because it seemed a little nicer, a little more exclusive than other places. Well, exclusive is right. The price tag for a good many excludes them. And a few days ago one of our church members came out of a meeting in Montgomery County only to discover that race-baiting slander had been spray-painted on cars and trucks. The message in essence was, “This is an exclusive place: not for you, not for you.”

It must have been something like that which led someone to say to Jesus one day as they were making their way toward Jerusalem, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And I think I hear in that question the plaintive hope, “And will I be in their number?” Do I have a chance? How many get into the Kingdom, and am I going to be one of them?

Lying behind that question was an old Jewish argument, which I guess we are still carrying on in one way or another today, about the size of the chosen. Some argued that the whole nation was God ‘s chosen people and would be saved when the Messiah would come. Others argued that no, it was just going to be a small remnant, those who were obedient, those who were correct theologically, those who kept the Sabbath perfectly. There were many debates on this point, how many would be saved; but on one thing they all agreed: that it would be only the Jews. No Romans, no Greeks, no Syrians, no Samaritans. And they conjured up a vision of a great banquet at which God’s Messiah would preside, and they would all be gathered, wining and dining and laughing their heads off at the rotten old Romans, out there in the cold.

Exclusive, that’s what we want. Mine; my banquet, my savior, my salvation, exclusive to me and my kind of folks. But Jesus won’t have any of that. Jesus is not about to preside over a country club kingdom. Let me tell you, he says, about who will and who will not be saved. Let me tell you about how God counts inclusion and exclusion, how God decides who to choose and who to leave out.

It boils down to this: many of those who think they are in, should be in, and can’t be anyplace but in, will, despite all their expectations, be out. And many of those whom we do not expect to be in, whom we do not feel deserve to be in, whom we would prefer to keep out, they will be in.

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First of all, lots of the folks who think they will automatically be in will be out. "Many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the householder has risen up and shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us’ He will answer you, ’I do not know where you come from; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity!” A whole lot of folks who think they have the right to be on in the inside will find out, to their astonishment, that they are out in the cold.

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