Yesterday, we looked at a couple of outsiders in insider places who just wanted to be seen (whether they knew that's what they wanted or not). The truth is, what many of us are looking for from Jesus is exactly this - to stop being outsiders and to be welcomed in insider places.
So many of the men and women that Jesus encountered should not have been where they were. A sinful woman walks into a Pharisee's house. A crippled man is standing in the Temple on the Sabbath. Lepers were right out on the streets where Jesus could encounter them. A bleeding woman is pushing through a crowd. A Syrophoenician woman is among the Jews. A tax collector is climbing a tree.
Over and over again, what we see is that Jesus keeps coming into contact with persons who shouldn't be where they are. Yet, it is the power and presence and promise of Jesus that has drawn them to take the risk, to try to push into these places, to make themselves known when they are supposed to be ostracized, forsaken, or forgotten.
The Old Testament was full of rules about who could be where and when and how and what was clean and what was unclean and what you could touch and what you couldn't, what you could eat and what you couldn't. And it feels sometimes like our lives are still that way - full of all of these rules governing our freedom of movement, our invitation into society, what is expected of us or accepted of us, what we can and can't do, where we can and can't be, around whom we can and cannot go.
Our churches are sometimes the same way. Too many have walked into our churches and found the rules too strict, the guidelines too complicated, to even figure out. They sit in our pews, but they aren't part of our worship. They fellowship in our halls, but not really. They get a sideways glance in passing, but no one's reaching out to shake hands or greet one another with a holy hug.
We spend our whole lives, it seems, trying to navigate all of these rules, inside the church and outside of it. When is it okay to walk into the boss's office? When should I call the doctor? How often can I knock on my neighbor's door? Is it okay to text this person right now?
We spend our lives waiting and watching and hoping for access, always wondering where the line is and whether or not we've stepped over it. And whether or not, maybe, we've stepped over it one too many times. We wonder if the line is the line or if it's a different line for us, if it's something about who we are. If it's personal. If we're ever going to be invited in.
Then, there's Jesus, who spends His ministry in all these places where all these folks just should not be, and not once does He tell them they shouldn't be there.
No, instead, He's often looking at those who think the others shouldn't be there and explaining exactly why it's good that they are. Exactly why this is exactly the kind of place this person should be.
He welcomes us in, no matter where it is, because it's where He is. He's already there, already inside.
Because He is Immanuel.
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