Sunday, August 19, 2012

In Out - Acts 11:1-18

Acts 11:1-18

This morning's sermon topic is about who’s in and who’s out... and who decides..

How do we determine who is “in” and who is “out”?

What are some of the lines we draw?

Or what are the ways we find ourselves confined by the determinations of others?

Who is in and who is out - and who decides?

What kinds of lines are drawn or distinctions are made about who’s in and who’s out?


A few examples I thought about this past week.

I’m the new head coach of JV soccer at Santa Fe high..I prefer that you call me, Coach Topple from now on :).

Who’s on varsity and who’s on JV?

What else happened this past week that centered around the question who’s in and who’s out?

- Tens of thousands of young undocumented immigrants waited in mile-long lines across the country on Wednesday to take advantage of a new federal policy that may grant them legal status to temporarily remain and work in the United States.

- The case of wikileaks founder Julian Assange is a fascinating one about global politics and who’s in and who’s out and who decides. 
Assange is a citizen of Australia who was under the threat of extradition to Sweden by the british government. The ecuadorian government gave him assylum and has him in the ecuadorian embassy in Great Britain.  And they say that behind much of this case is the US led push to bring him to this country for leaking top secret information pertaining to our countries involvement in wars abroad.  
Who’s in and who’s out and who decides?  

- On the Friday broadcast of the Youth Media project, teens wondered about their own identity as they found themselves living between cultures and boundaries. 
A student at United World College born in Tanzania but has lived most of her life in north america, spoke about her excitement of returning to her homeland....but upon her return she found her ability to speak in her native tongue awkward, and the customs of the people she called family strange. Was she at home, she asked?  Is this my family, she wondered?
Who’s in and who’s out and who decides?

In order to live into and claim our identities...we identify with various groups and organizations...

political parties...
grocery stores...
religious organizations...

Churches have wrestled with the question of who’s in and who’s out for a long time.

What does it mean to distinguish between who’s a member of a church and who is not?

More broadly,
Have you ever been asked if you’re saved? It’s a way of asking if you’re in.

The first time I memorably encountered this question was when I visited a baptist church when I was 12 and in the SUnday school class we were asked to bow our heads and close our eyes and raise our hands if we weren’t sure if we were going to heaven...
Of the 30 or so kids in the classroom how many of us raised our hands...ONE
Who was the
The only honest kid in the room :). 

Who’s in and Who’s out and who decides?

This question was fundamentally at the heart of contemporary theologian and church leader Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins- a NY times best seller.  It essentially threw out the notion of hell arguing that God’s love for the world is greater than any impuse God may have to condemn anyone of God’s creatures to an eternity of eternal damnation.  Bell was not the first person to come to this conclusion, but he certainly experienced a tremendous backlash across the world.

If there’s no hell, what the hell is the point of all this, is basically the problem people had with his book. (I admit I haven’t read the book and most of this illustration is construed from hear-say and minimal investigation).

Carlton Peaterson

But simply asking if someone is saved may not be enough in some Christian saved are you? how in are you?

Do you believe in the Trinity?
in or out?
Do you believe that Moses wrote the first five books of the bible?
in or out?
Are you a creationist or evolutionist?
in or out?
Are you pro-life or pro choice?
or out?
When I was at a conservative Christian College, Wheaton, when some students found out I was a Presbyterian, I was asked, the good kind or the bad kind?  Bad kind meaning PC(USA).
in or out?
And that was back in the 1990s when there was still backlash over the ordination of women.
Wonder what the folks there think now about our denomination allowing for the ordination of homosexuals?
 GLBTQ rights now seems to be the current litmus test about who’s in and who’s out...

I was so moved by Clyde Tomlin prayer a few weeks ago here.  He essentially said:
We pray for Hope Christian Acadamy in Albuquerque which denied admission to a three year old who is the child of a same sex couple. 
Hope. Christian. Academy.
Jesus, you taught, ““Suffer the little children unto me, do not deny them?”
Hope Christian Academy. Jesus, this school that bears your name.
Hope Christian Academy. Where is the hope? God in your mercy....

This summer, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church denied passage of a marriage rite of same sex couples. 

And just two months after General Assembly, presbyterian ruling elders John and Louise Singleton have asked us, their church community, to give our blessing to their son Will who married his partner, Doug, yesterday.
The couple lives in Colorado, but had to travel to New York where same sex marriage is permitted...
who’s in and who’s out who decides?

All of these ways we can distinguish between ourselves and others. 

You know one of the most essential and concrete ways the early Jesus followers determined who was in and who was out?
It wasn’t political affiliation or a particular stance on a controversial issue.

Back when the church was not a building...and those who were followers of Jesus were trying to figure out how to apply the teachings of Jesus to their own lives and share those teachings with others...there was great concern about who was in and who was out.
Who can be part of this movement! THere have to be guidelines....there have to be rules...
there has to be a way to make us distinct!

So what was the big controversial way of determining who was in and who was out?
not skin color, not necessarily ethnicity, (see Acts 2- and the plurality of Jews gathered)
male circumcision.   male circumcision...

How they were able to make this man to another? I don't know.

But that was it. 

The first followers of Jesus were Jews..AKA  “men of the circumcision.”

But, they were a minority people group....Romans, Canannites, Samaritans, Syrophonicians, etc., not to mention the various religious factions within the Jewish community, and now these Jewish men were finding themselves in further isolation from the mainstream, as their fellow Jews who did not accept the message of Jesus were pushing them away....

So they're not really in anywhere...they're basically irrelevant...
But, they still want to spread the Jesus message and in doingso have to decide who's in with them...

and Peter, the leader of the group, of all people enters the house of uncircumsized men and ate with them!  
grumble grumble grumble!
They're out not in

How is Peter going to explain this to his circumcised friends?

A vision?

A dream?

Three times-a divine number- I saw the vision three times...get up Peter..'"What God has made clean, you must not call profane.'

Three men stood before me.  Six brethren accompanied me 

This was from God!

The Holy Spirit descended upon the whole household...

How can we say that those who were once out.. are not to be in? 
or maybe we circumcised men, who were once out...are now in

It’s important that there are limits...that we have boundaries...and rules
We know this from raising our kids...Zia cannot play with a knife and Ruby Gene cannot only eat candy for supper. 

But, how do we put limits on the measure of God's love?

How can we have boundaries on God's grace?

How can we confine God's mercy?

It seems that much of what we find happening throughout the early journey of Jesus followers in Acts is one in which the disciples are pushed out from their closed circles and limited understanding about who they are in relationship with the world, and given to see that God’s vision of oneness and unity is much more than they had originally thought.

LV asked me when I was talking about the sermon with him, does this mean that everybody’s supposed to be in?

It looks like that must be a decision that you and I make?

 and it's hard because we hear so often...different, us, them, Westminster, First, Presbyterian, Methodist, Catholic, Jew, Muslim, citizen, illegal, gay, straight, Capital, Santa Fe...

Peter had a  vision...a dream.."What God has made clean, you must not call profane.'

And while the church squabbles over who’s in and who’s out....
The Holy Spirit has left the buildings...and moves among even the gentiles
Caravans that Travel across countries seeking peace and an end to violence...come out to the plaza tomorrow afternoon at 11 and see the spirit move as people gather in love.

The church argues over who’s in and who’s out...
The Holy SPirit has left the buildings and moves among even the gentiles
those who seek to care for God’s good creation.  
Come out to the Farmers Market on Tuesdays or Saturdays and see the joy of wholesome food

While the church tries to figure out how to attract young people...
the holy spirit has left buildings and moves among even the gentiles..
sports teams play, boys and girls clubs gather, and  the Chavez center is full of life in community...

Tonight many of us will go to the mass at the Guadalupe church, and we will not be allowed to take communion...
The church still thinks it decides who's in and who's out....

While the Holy Spirit has left the building and is working over the radio waves....
A program on KUNM after 9 o’clock Thursday, on my way home from session...
The DJ says, let us celebrate the good news that we are all one.

Let us pause for 20 seconds and celebrate this good gift...we are one.

And then there was 20 seconds of silence....and it was dead silent...are we not one....if so what does this mean?

What dreams do you dream old men and women?
What visions do you envision young women and men?
with hat prophetic voice do you cry out  sons and daughters?

Who’s in, who’s out, who decides?

Let us sit in silence for 20 seconds, and pray the Holy Spirit stir among us and in our hearts in new and exciting ways

Illustrations that got cut: 

1. I was a fourth generation family member in the church I grew up in.  In the south during the 60s there were arguments in white churches as to whether or not blacks would be allowed into their churches.  (The arrogance is that this position assumes blacks would want to go to a white church). I am proud to claim as part of my heritage that my great grandfather, serving on session, when this question first came to a vote, voted in favor of allowing blacks into church for worship....It was initially defeated...But, subsequent debate finally allowed for the integration, and to this day, if there are any African Americans to worship in that church, they usually sit where he and my family sat...the second row pew...

While I’m glad I have that as part of my heritage, I am not proud of having a church as part of my heritage that refuses to dream of a world in which there is not a question about who’s in and who’s out...there is only a question of the Holy Spirit inspiring us with love and calling us all to be one.

who’s in and who’s out?  Where do we draw the line?  
It’s getting more and more difficult to do in this globalized world. 
I mean, countries must protect borders from people crossing...
While at the same time passing free trade agreements, many of which necessitate the emigration of the people.. 

On a trip to the US mexican border not to long ago, there was the bitter-sweet image of the “wall” separating the two countries, but one pigeon flew from one side to the other...and crossed successfully without being detained.  Then after a few minutes, it crossed back to the other side.  Just to check out the action on the other side of the border.  Then it crossed back again...What’s happening over here.

We humans are tribalistic.  We have such a strong need to belong.  We must know to whom we belong, and to what we belong in order to best know what we are about...otherwise we are lost.
This is reasonable. 

There are so many ways of determining our tribe. 
Football teams.
Facebook friends and fans.
Church or religious affiliation
Beverage preference. 
Place of birth, place of residence.

I remember as a kid, 16 or so, driving to school late stuck in traffic, and I would get upset at drivers who’s plates were from a different county...a different county...those people coming into my county and making me late to school.

Tribalism is part of who we are...
healthy instances --in which one has a strong sense of self--can foster amazing gifts of hospitality, graciousness, and openness
Unhealthy ones--in which self is defined over and against others---can lead to hatred, terrorism, and violence.

Tribalism was something that existed during the time of the early Jesus follower movement. 
Newell’s being bowed to by an imam

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