All In Week Two: Included

Today we're going to continue the sermon series that we started last week, a sermon series entitled "All In!"  And we're learning throughout this series to see more clearly how we can live an “All-in” kind of life as we seek to follow Jesus together 

And we're focusing on four essential aspects of an all-in approach to being in a faith community together:  Invited. Included. Involved. Invested. 

Last week we focused on what it means to be invited and that we know we're "All In" when we invite others to the joy we find in Jesus.  

Today we will focus on what it means to be included.  

Did you know that there is a vast difference between being welcomed as opposed to being both welcomed AND included?  

Let me give you some examples: 

You start a new job, and everyone is friendly, but you notice that most of your co-workers go to a local pub after work on Fridays.  You hear them talk about it, but you never get invited. 

Or let's say you're a person of color and want to get involved in the PTA at your kid's school, so you show up at the first meeting.  You realize that everyone knows everyone from the neighborhood, and they already have committee assignments and leadership roles. They're friendly enough, but it's clear that they're wary of your motives. 

You start attending a church that declares that "Everyone Is Welcome!" on their website and even on signs in their lobby.  But it doesn't take long to figure out that not everyone is included, even though everyone is welcome.  

The passage of Scripture that we're going to be exploring today comes from the Gospel of Matthew and is essentially Matthew's own account of how Jesus called him to be a disciple. 

It's one of the most amazing moments of Jesus showing how to both welcome and include in the Gospel accounts.  

In fact, that's the one thing that I want us to hold on to as we journey together through this particular sermon: 


So let's dive right into the passage for today: 

9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’[a] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

We need some background on why this is a scandalous moment. 

Jesus chose twelve of the most dissimilar, disqualified group of people to be his disciples and carry on his ministry. But the one who probably united all of the other eleven at least on a bit of common ground was Matthew himself. 

Matthew was a tax collector when Jesus called him to be his disciple. He was hated by all the fishermen among the disciples because he collected taxes for the Roman government on the very docks of the Sea of Galilee where they had fished their entire lives.  

And don’t get me started on how much the political zealots among the disciples would have felt about his affiliation with Rome. In their previous lives, they would have wanted Matthew dead. 

This was just the kind of disruption that Jesus loved to initiate.  

The other eleven disciples had probably been all in with his teaching, soaking it in, working on their prayer life, witnessing miracles, and thinking to themselves, “Look at us! We’re learning to love God!” 

And then Matthew came on board, and all that Jesus had taught them was put to the test.  

We should also think a bit about how Matthew felt, too. He knew that he was thought to be a pariah in his community. He was undoubtedly banned from the synagogues in the area, shunned by all the religious folk, and plenty more besides. 

When Jesus called Matthew to follow as a disciple, he not only put everyone else on notice that God’s radical love and acceptance were for all but also put Matthew on notice.  

For once, Matthew belonged, was accepted and included, and because of this, he also learned what it meant to Love God and Everybody. What a decisive moment!  

So Jesus and the disciples go to Matthew's house for dinner, which would have caused quite a stir among the religious types in the community, not to mention would have made the eleven disciples pretty uncomfortable. 

Matthew's only friends at this point would have been people like him.  Tax collectors, and sinners.  

The Pharisees--the group of people who were always finding fault with everything that everyone did that didn't promote Jewish nationalism--ask a question that even the disciples don't want to answer. 

"Why does your master eat with sinners and tax collectors?"

Jesus then busts out some Old Testament wisdom that these guys would have had memorized from the prophet Hosea: 

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’[a] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Think about how that must have felt to everyone who heard it.  To the religious elite, to have their own Scriptures turned toward them like a mirror.  To the disciples who were getting a lesson in what it meant to Love God, Love Everybody.  

And the lesson there was not just for the disciples about what it meant to be included.  It was for Matthew, too.   Finally, he knew what it meant to be welcomed and included.  It was everything. 

This is what Jesus wanted his followers to grasp---that there is no "other" when it comes to people created in God's image. There is only "us." 

We all need to hear this today.  Offering your welcome without inclusion is not a welcome...  And here at Shepherd of the Hills we believe that everyone ought to be welcomed and included.  

But who is really on this list?  Let me give you a rundown: 

Every person of every race/ethnicity/culture is welcomed and included. 

If you are a member of the LGBTQ = community, you are welcomed and included. 

You are welcomed and included no matter your gender or gender identity. 

You are welcomed and included wherever you find yourself regarding your sexual orientation. 

You are welcomed and included if you are a conservative, Republican or Libertarian. 

You are welcomed and included if you are a liberal, progressive, Democrat, or Green Party member. 

If you are not sure what it means to be a Christian and are not sure if you want to be one, you are welcomed and included. 

You are welcomed and included if you struggle with mental health issues. 

Whatever your physical, mental, or emotional abilities, you are welcomed and included. 

You are welcomed and included regardless of your socio-economic status. 

You are welcomed and included if you are young, old, middle-aged or any other age.  

You are welcome and included if you are an addict or alcoholic; trust me, there are plenty of us here already.  

You are welcome and included if you know a lot about the Bible or you know almost nothing about the Bible.  

You don’t even have to like church all that much to be welcomed and included, so check that box, too.  

Listen, I am sure that there will be people who read this and who will say, “But what about______?” Well, you’re welcomed and included, too. There’s a lot of room at the table.  

Having said all of that... I do need to say that there are things that are actually not welcomed at SHPC.  

Being welcoming to all ideas and philosophies is essentially nihilistic, meaning you stand for nothing. I am not advocating for that at all.  

I am saying that these values of love, welcome, and inclusion are grounded in the teachings and actions of Jesus, and if there was one thing that Jesus was intolerant of, it was intolerance.  

There is no room in the Kingdom of God for anything that causes harm or excludes those created in the image of God from being fully included in the life of Christ’s church.  

Jesus didn’t put up with that stuff, and neither should we.  

The fact is that we all walk with a limp as we stumble after Jesus, and we are all in need of grace. The moment we slide down the slippery slope of assuming that some among us might not be worthy of the dignity of inclusion is when we need to take a hard look at ourselves.  

Jesus told his followers in Matthew 7:3: “Don’t tell your brother, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck of dust in your eye!’ When you have a huge wooden plank sticking out of your own.”  

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got enough to worry about without casting my gaze on others to see what’s causing their eye to itch. I’ve got a whole Home Depot lumberyard going on in mine!  

If we're going to be "all-in when it comes to our family of faith, we need to learn what it means to both welcome and include.  And we also need to know that we ourselves are both welcomed and included in this family of faith.  

The Gospel is big enough for all of us.  

And we need to know this beyond a shadow of a doubt:  WE'RE ALL IN WHEN WE BOTH WELCOME AND INCLUDE. 


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