Our daughter Kaya is 11 months old and she is really social. She is curious about everyone we pass, everyone we meet. We’ve done quite a bit of train travel the last few months, and now that she’s walking she’s not happy to sit still the whole journey. So instead we walk with her up and down the carriages and she stops at every single seat.
It’s a little awkward. She has no respect for personal boundaries. She’s there, hands on these stranger’s thighs, grinning up at them, or trying to steal their food or newspaper.
The beautiful thing is she has no favouritism. She’ll talk to anyone. The business men and women in their suits, the grannies, the children, that one guy with the amazing long dreads she was so fascinated by. The ones who smell bad enough that the seats around have been emptied.
Even the group of rowdy teenagers already drinking cans of beer at 10 in the morning. She goes right up to them, smile broad, and they cou cou and laugh with her, letting her play with the beer cans while I watch trying to hide my concern.
But also amazed at my little girl who has not let learnt the story of our culture that some people should be avoided and looked down at, my little girl who treats everyone she meets exactly the same.
The church has not always been thought of as inclusive. It’s not generally one of the words first picked to describe us. Judgmental is more frequently heard as the description.
We’ve learnt and practiced the art of keeping people out. We don’t want to let the wrong kind of people in, because it might change the church; it might change us.
What do the wrong kind of people look like? I could list some of those common things that divide us but I think if we’re honest, if we look into our thoughts, our hearts, we know exactly who we don’t believe should be here alongside us, the people whose lives or beliefs make us really uncomfortable. We say, you’re welcome, but only if you change first.
Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
But we are forever drawing lines in the sand, building up the church walls higher and thicker, and declaring who is in and who is very definitely out.
Can I draw you a picture of the church? It’s going to look different than the one you drew as a child, a building with walls and probably a big steeple or tower with a cross on the top, heavy wood doors at the front of the building.
Instead, imagine a bonfire.
It’s been lit on the beach and it’s big. It’s burning bright and warm and people are starting to gather around it. Someone’s brought a guitar, there’s an accordion being played too. Some people are dancing, others are talking, others are just staring into the flames or watching the stars spin across the heavens above them. A few are barbecuing sausages and roasting marshmallows, and some have fallen asleep. They are all enjoying the fire in different ways, but together.
The campfire can been seen from far away and people are attracted towards it, wanting be closer to the light and the warmth. Some come running towards it in relief and excitement. Others are slower to come, lingering at the edges of the light. But all are welcome.
“There are no walls out here. And there should be no walls of defence towards God or each other. In the Kingdom of God there are no outsiders. All of us have the divine spark within us and we so desperately need the breath of God to bring us light and love. We must learn the art of togetherness.” – Rend Collective
We learn this art of togetherness when we stop labeling one another and start delighting in one another. When we become like Kaya, thrilled by every person she meets, so sure that they are lovable because she is certain she is.
This is taken from my recent sermon on 31st May at All Nations Church of Luxembourg. I preached on Acts 6:1-7 about the importance of remembering we are One. You can hear the full sermon by clicking play below, or listen on the church website or soundcloud.
More of my past sermons are available as podcasts on my Speaking page.