If They Are In, Am I Out?


It is “Eastertide” right now in the church calendar. Turns out Easter is not just a one day thing. And in Eastertide this year, my church is thinking about what people do after the resurrection of Jesus. Christ died and was risen, and they knew Christ would come again, but what in the world do you do until then? What do you do when Jesus shows up in your life and shakes everything and shows you a whole new way and even defeats death? What in the world do you do after that?

This is the question we are still wrestling with, isn’t it? Jesus came in and shook up our life and now what? Now what do we do?

Peter was looking for the answer to this question. And Jesus answered. In John 21, Jesus looks Peter dead in the face and tells Peter to feed his sheep. Feed his sheep, tend his sheep, love his sheep. And this seems amazingly simple, until you get to the question, who exactly are Jesus’ sheep? Where do we find them?

Fast forward to Acts 11. Peter has, in fact, found the sheep Jesus was talking about. And boy, is he surprised. Through a series of wild events that could only be orchestrated by the Holy Spirit, Peter starts hanging out with gentiles, gentiles who had interactions with the Holy Spirit even before Peter showed up to tell them the story. He found the sheep Jesus was talking about! It is awesome.

Except, it isn’t so awesome. Peter gets a letter from back home. Word has gotten out that he has been eating with Gentiles and boy are the people back home mad. It is easy for me to blame those people back home. It is easy to look at this story and roll our eyes at the people who aren’t letting the other people in. But this time, as I read this story, I didn’t roll my eyes at the people asking Peter, Hey, what is happening! Instead, I saw myself.

I came home from college some time in the late fall and, of course, on Sunday I attended the church I had gone to most Sundays for my entire life. Someone greeted me at the door and asked me if I was a first time visitor. I was furious. I had literally grown up in that church and here someone wanted to know if I was a first time visitor! Didn’t she know who I was? She didn’t. And in my 18-year-old insecurity I was afraid that her taking her place as a greeter of her new church meant she was in and I was out. I was furious on the outside; I was afraid on the inside. Because I went to college, does that mean I lost my place here? Is there still room for me?

I do not care how old we are, isn’t there always the insecure teenage girl inside of us, wondering if someone is going to take our spot? Is there anything like greeting new people into places we love, places we are sure we fit, to make us wonder if our safe place will kick us out? If she gets invited to the lunch table does that mean she takes my spot? If she starts hanging out with us, does that mean I won’t be the right fit anymore?

The kingdom of God does not work like a high school lunch table, but too many of us are afraid it does. And maybe I should admonish all of us for being immature, but really I get it. I think God gets it too. God created us for community. We are meant to do this thing called life together. God designed us to need each other. But the world has told us there is only so much room. There is only so much space. There are a limited number of seats at the table. This is a lie, and it is one we have been believing since the earliest days of church history.

There has always been enough room for you AND them.
There has always been enough words from God for everyone to hear.
There has always been enough good work to do, enough love to give, enough sheep to feed.

No one can take the place God has for you.

No one can cause you to be irrelevant.

No one can keep you out of the church, because God has decided that everyone is in.

The Holy Spirit is already working in places we think of as “out.” That makes us afraid we aren’t still in. That isn’t how any of this works. Jesus made sure of that.

Jesus came to this earth, and taught us a new way, then willingly died and rose again freeing us from the ways of this world, and leaving us with the question, What does that mean now?

What does that mean now? It means that there is more room than we could ever imagine. It means that more people get in, but that doesn’t mean you are out. It means we don’t have to worry. Just because Peter is eating with the Gentiles doesn’t mean he won’t also eat with the Jews.

Yes, they are in.

The kingdom of God isn’t a lunch table. It is a banquet.

You are in too.