Struggling to find a sense of belonging has long been a problem of mine from my childhood days of not quite fitting in with friends, or at school. And even left to myself I felt like an outsider or on the verge of it, much of the time. When I commited my life to God through Jesus, this opened up a new chapter in which I suddenly felt on the inside with God and other Christians. Though I've come to realize over the years that this can still be a struggle as a sort of exclusivism can wrap itself around us (some of that from the truth, but much of it from error), making it easy for us miss the point of why Jesus came, and why we in Jesus remain here in this world.
L.L. in this chapter helpfully unfolds for us this problem of exclusion which is part of sin and God's curse and scattering of humankind. And of God's answer for inclusion, back to his very heart. Continuing with her on her journey she recounts her days after college when she settled down in her own place and ate off her pfaltzgraff stone plates after which with delight she'd wash them in the suds in the sink. This was therapeutic for her in that she felt on the inside, contrary to what her stepfather had drummed into her that she was an outsider who couldn't do anything.
L.L. shares with us in a way I've never seen of God making his heart known to humankind through Israel in the form of the beautifully woven crimson, blue and purple of the tabernacle/tent pitched in the middle of the tribes of Israel as they traveled through the desert. Through the priestly sacrificial system God was making himself known, the high priest entering the Most Holy Place once a year in front of the ark of the covenant with the carved cherubim overshadowing it, the center of God's heart, to make atonement again and again, annually, for the people in forgiving their sins.
Jesus in the incarnation came as the Word became flesh and made his dwelling, or more literally pitched his tent or tabernacled among us. Jesus is the new tabernacle through whom access is given to God's very heart. No longer would the people of God just see it, but now through faith in Jesus they enter it for themselves, into the Most Holy Place through the blood of Jesus, meaning through his death.
Jesus' heart was broken in the process of making this true and open for all. He was treated in the most inhumane ways and even felt like his Father had turned his face away in excluding him as well. But he suffered this that we might be included again, back to God and with all peoples, in Jesus. In Jesus we become the place where God wants to bring other outsiders in.
L.L. reminds us that God gives to his people in the new covenant, a new heart, his very heart. It's a heart that is inclusive, that wants to bring all people in through Jesus and the message of the gospel. The question for us is how do we see this? Is this just for ourselves, or does it include others? This was a major issue Jesus had with the Pharisees and religious leaders of his day. Yet Jesus' example was just the opposite, reaching out to the outcasts in his day: the lepers, tax-collectors and sinners, and really to all, including those who excluded others. We in Jesus are to do the same, knowing that this inclusion we have found in Jesus is not just for ourselves, but for others.
It has taken me years to have a settled sense of inclusion in spite of all the ways I can feel excluded at times. God's heart for us in Jesus revealed to us by his Spirit and his word makes it clear that we are included and that God is inviting and welcoming home in Jesus, all who are outside. We are to live as those in Jesus before the world to help others find this same inclusion in Jesus.
Read this chapter (and book) slowly and enjoy.
What would you like to share in your thinking or from your life about what this means to you?
1. Stepping Stones - conversion
2. Christmas Coal - shame
3. Tossed Treasures - messiness
4. Heron Road - suffering
5. Sword in the Stone - resistance
6. Howe's Cave - baptism
7. Palisade Cliffs - doubt
Next week: Indiana Jones - fear