Summary: Part of a series on what the church is called t be.
“The Church You’ve Always Longed For:
Welcomes all People”
TEXT: Leviticus 19: 32-34
Throughout September, October and most of November, we will be talking about the church that God longs for. Last week I asked you to think about this phrase, “I like church, but....” Have you been able to fill in the blank at all?
What does God desire for his church and for his people? Last week we said that God’s desire is for his church to capture the heart of the community. One way to do that is to share our faith with others, and the other way is to demonstrate his grace through acts of kindness. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we became known as the church that experienced grace in the year 2003.
What else does God desire? God loves everyone no matter what race, color or creed, and do we? I’ve been asked privately by people, “Why is White Clay so white?” I don’t know the answer. I’m not playing the blame game, and I have no conclusions. There is no easy answer because you find the same scenario across the entire United States in African-American churches, Hispanic churches, and Korean churches.
In Revelation 7:9, we see what God desires. This picture is us in the future. We are there. Can we live out that vision here and now? God’s desire is that we welcome all people. Jesus reduced the entire Bible to two short phrases: Love God and love other people.
The text that we are going to deal with this morning is the root of passages like Galatians 3:26-28, “In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are one in Christ Jesus.” It is the root of II Corinthians 5: 16-18 which describes Paul’s ability to begin to see people on the inside and not the outside. He refused to judge people by their looks. It is the root for James 2: 1-4 which challenges us not to show favoritism towards the rich or the poor.
What if a person came into church with a nice business suit and tie, and then a family wearing cut-off jeans and t-shirts came in. Who would we favor?
I’d like to read about one church that was challenged in the same way:
“The Community Church had worked to maintain beauty and dignity in its worship service. In this Midwest college town, the rich tones of the pipe organ were considered fitting rather than old-fashioned. Worshipers often came early to meditate and to secure their favorite pew. That’s because the sanctuary was frequently full. Sunday dress was just that. Parents and children polished their shoes and wore their best suits and skirts to church. They felt that God was worthy of the best they had to offer and these were long-held community standards. The college students came from various parts of the country, and their worship habits were more casual. Some students pushed casual to the edge.
“Church was packed on the second Sunday of September. Vacations were over and the students were back. When the sanctuary is filled with friendly worshipers, it generates wonderfully warm feelings unless you are someone who arrives a little late and can’t find a seat. Skilled ushers are often the heroes of these occasions. Was it a freshman who entered the sanctuary ten minutes after the service had begun? Who else would wear sandals and shorts and a t-shirt? He seemed to be dressed for the beach but he didn’t look ready for worship–not to most eyes. “Thanks, bro.” he said when he was handed a bulletin. He brushed by the usher and looked for somewhere to sit, but there were no empty spots. Tension mounted as regular worshipers forgot their worship to watch this unseemly show. What would he do now? The student creatively solved his problem. He sat down cross-legged in the aisle between the first two pews. People’s expressions could easily be read–“What a lack of decorum! Nothing like this had ever occurred before!”
“At the rear of the sanctuary gray-haired Deacon Oakley was serving as head usher. From the time he was young, he had been taught to dress for church in the clothes he would wear to see Jesus. He had on a blue three-piece suit and an elegant tie. A gold watch fob gleamed from his vest. Oakley–his name was appropriate. He was old and strong like a tree. In previous years, he chaired the church board and his reputation was solid. People said Oakley was quiet but he was wise. If anyone could handle this distraction gracefully, this man could. Eyes turned to the back of the church as Deacon Oakley began to slowly walk down the aisle......”
What did he do, and what would we have done? More important, what would Jesus have done at that moment? To answer the question, we are going to look at a text written 3,300 years ago. Leviticus 19: 32-24