Archive for May 9th, 2014

All Are Welcome Here

Originaly Posted on May 9, 2014

All Are Welcome

At Hollywood Adventist Church, “Where God’s Spirit is given space to change lives,” we are committed to the ongoing work of making that space fully inclusive.

God’s love is broader and deeper than we can fathom. Fellowship and membership in His church should, likewise, be open and generous. The redemptive power of Christ’s love extends to everyone regardless of age, race, class or sexual identity. All are welcome in our church.

We embrace the challenge of being a diverse community, which encourages dialogue and welcomes questions, as we continue to identify the ways God is at work in all of our lives. We believe this will ultimately enrich us and be a witness for and a foretaste of the kingdom God intends to establish in the earth made new.

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Invited to Know

Originaly Posted on May 9, 2014

INVITED TO KNOW,” By Scott Arany

Thomas, the one called Didymus, one of the Twelve, wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We’ve seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails, and put my hand into his side, I won’t believe.”

After eight days his disciples were again in a house and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. Look at my hands. Put your hand into my side. No more disbelief. Believe!”

Thomas responded to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus replied, “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.” John 20:24–29.

Reading this passage in lectio divina this week, I saw an invitation here I’d never noticed before. I also saw a new, sympathetic side to Thomas. I could relate to him, and for once, not because of the legendary “doubting Thomas” reputation.

Somehow, Thomas missed out on meeting the resurrected Jesus with the other disciples. They had a powerful moment with Jesus, receiving a blessing from Him, their spirits filled with joy. But Thomas missed this. How would you feel if all of your closest friends had such an experience and you missed it? What if you were still grieving over something horrific only to not get the notice that joy was happening down the block?

I wonder why Thomas wasn’t with the other disciples. I think maybe he went off to mourn Christ’s death privately. At least, that’s what I would’ve done. Sometimes isolation is important. Sometimes I miss important things when isolated. It’s a mix of both. I also would likely feel isolated, awkward bereft and out-of-place in the next eight days I spent with my happy friends while still nursing such a painful hole in my heart. I’d probably grump defensively, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” a pointed snark to my friends that I didn’t get to see what they saw.

I picture Thomas in the house with the disciples a week later, door locked to the outside world, everyone else confident in knowing He’s alive… and Thomas just can’t get into it. He didn’t see Jesus. He missed the blessing. Jesus had a whole week to show up, and didn’t. Maybe Thomas is in the corner, feeling a deep sense of disconnect from the men and women he should feel years of tested connection for.

Then Jesus shows up and invites Thomas to know He is real. Thomas’s instant response is one of belief, not doubt: “My Lord and my God!”

“Do you believe because you see me?” says Jesus. “Blessed are those who don’t see and yet believe.”

For the first time reading this story, I felt some comfort in those words. Instead of a chastisement, it’s almost as if Jesus stood up for Thomas in front of the disciples. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Yeah, you guys had it easy. You saw me. Thomas didn’t, but he still calls me Lord.” As always, Jesus stands up for the odd guy out. He invites us to know Him, to know His wounds and His reality.

Christ ascended to the Father, and today we are the Body of Christ. We have the wounds in our sides and hands. We are the ones who are filled with joy; we are the ones who missed the blessing. We are the ones losing connection with our tribes and families; we are the ones defended by God. Yet we can still know God—and each other—when we invite each other to know us, to know our wounds, our doubts… and our resurrections. Peace be with us.

Peace,

Scott

 

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