Themes are important. They frame our time and help us grasp the big picture. This weekend President Obama chimed in on what he thought the theme of these dark times is: INDIFFERENCE. I have certainly seen the toll that apathy and indifference has taken in our country, leading to today.
If I had to pick just a one-word theme for the Bible it would be: GRACE. Time and time again we see grace overflowing borders. God is constantly challenging us to see grace spilling over into yet larger places and times. Today’s New Testament readings are no exception.
In John, despite Jesus being rejected by the key leaders of the day, we clearly see him as a divine shepherd who knows his sheep and they know his voice. We seem to have a blueprint before us to get to know his voice, and it is a passage of comfort and reassurance.
In Acts, (which if you hadn’t discovered is one of my favorite books) Paul and Barnabas have really ticked off the Jews. It is the Sabbath and they are preaching to the Gentiles. Sabbath preaching is certainly allowed, so what irritates the Jews is that they have drawn such a crowd that they were filled with jealousy and led to blaspheme on the Sabbath. So in a way they are mad at themselves.
Paul and Barnabas use this against them. They declare the Jewish rejection of the gospel as knit together with a gentile mission. We see God’s word spilling over boundaries, over barriers that few thought possible.
Circumcision was seen as so key, there was no discussion for the Jews. The Torah, as well, was seen as so central that it wasn’t even up for debate. And here were people talking about those barriers coming down? Who do they think they are?
This is the joy of the good news. Time and time again we see God breaking the rules of humanity. People say “No” and God says “Yes”. People put up rules, and God knocks them down.
We see this so clearly even in our churches today. Many churches have become obsessed with purity. They seek rules in favor of God’s radical love. They spend a lot of energy deciding who’s in and who’s out, failing to realize that from the beginning they were all “out” and God declared them “in”.
It is almost like the theme is the opposite of indifference, because God cares very much for this all-inclusive word of GRACE getting out. God wants the party to begin and wants you to know you are invited.
My prayer is that we all wake up to the good news in our midst. None of us deserve God’s “Yes”. But God has made room for us at this grand banquet. All we must do is realize a seat has been pulled up to this joyful feast for us.
Take a seat! God’s party is just beginning!