Sunday, 9 March 2014

For All
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you ...
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
There is a thread running all through the Bible which, in its day, was absolutely revolutionary. So much so that these days it hardly seems exceptional at all. Sometimes it's even practised!

Way, way back, when gods were tribal, or at most national, God calls Abraham to leave his home and to go where He sends him. God says that He will bless Abraham's descendants, but also says He will bless the rest of the world through them.

Gods didn't do that back then. A tribal god was there to look after their chosen tribe, a national god to look after their nation ... if they felt like it, if the correct rituals and sacrifices had been given. Yet here is this (apparently new) god saying He has chosen His people to bless all the other tribes, all the other peoples too.

In many ways the Old Testament is the story of the Israelites determinedly not doing that. But also it is the story of their prophets reminding them, again and again, that this was their special calling: to bless others. Even deadly enemies - consider Jonah's unwilling mission.

Then Jesus comes along:
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life."
It's the whole world that God loves, not just the Jewish bit, not only religious people, or any other sort of aristocracy, but everyone.

Jesus was put to death, and rose again, and then there was Pentecost. Suddenly, not only is God wanting to bless all the world through His people, but He is wanting to include everyone as part of His people. Jews and foreigners, Samaritans, even an Ethiopian eunuch, all invited to become God's people, nobody excluded.

Probably the first written of the documents now called the New Testament was Paul's letter to the Galatians. In that Paul spells out in some detail that all these distinctions and all these exclusions are redundant in Jesus. Jesus isn't just for Jews or Greeks, not just for Europeans, Americans, or Africans, he is for all the world; he is not just for men or just for women, not just for those who are gay nor those who are straight, he is for everyone; not just the rich, nor just the poor, nor even just the middle classes, but all people are invited into God's Kingdom, all people are offered a blessing through Jesus.

So that is the job of Jesus' church: to offer a welcome to all people in Jesus' name, and to offer a blessing to everyone around them. Some local churches do that well, others fall short ... such is life. May God bless you and all whom you care for, this week and into the future.

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