Being freshly out of seminary I must admit to being still troubled when verses are left out of a passage to create a preachable pericope. Sometimes it seems we avoid the toughest words to hear, sometimes we delete out what is counter to our own agenda and sometimes we decide the words longer have relevance. A hard place in which to dwell, loving the Word and editing it. I do realize the many ways by which we can enter a text and the myriad of ways the text will touch us once it has been put down. I am grateful of the careful, faithful way in which we are called to read our Text. We must always be cognizant of context to be sure. In this week's text there is one line that I do indeed have trouble skipping, and a little trouble including - verse 37 - "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away" (NIV). For me this is a cornerstone of Jesus' ministry, Jesus' very life and death. Anyone, whosoever, all - all who come to Jesus are welcomed. Moreover, anyone who comes to Jesus will not be driven away.
I have seen many folks turned away, driven away from the Body of Christ, driven away from Jesus. I have watched helpless, hopeless, so many years ago as a child in a southern church, as an old African American man was denied access to an all white “body of Christ.” I have held the hands of a homeless woman turned away from the Body of Christ because her need was too great and her ability to contribute deemed too small. I sat on a plane with a young man this week and heard a story of how he was driven from the church by the strict legalism that condemned and harassed his mother already suffering through the trauma of divorce. I too have been told with all certitude that I am not welcome at God's table.
But that is not the whole of the story - I am not excused from asking myself in what ways have I driven people away from Jesus? When someone has come to me - and truly I claim Jesus as my own, how have I turned the bread of life into the hard, stale bread of my pain and resentment? More over - how can I turn over the remaining crumbs to Jesus so that the remnants are can be transformed into a bounty of bread to fill any soul who seeks Christ?
Jesus ate with, walked with and touched all who society had tagged as unacceptable. Am I really called to walk and talk with those who at first take might make my heart grow cold with my own certitude and pessimism? All means all. How do I sit at the table with my legalistic, literalist brothers and sisters? How do I reach out and take the hand of those who would and do scorn millions that they have relegated to the margins? Only with Jesus – with the constant prayer that I may be the conduit of the grace that comes from only God.
Tax thief, roman soldier, leprous and broken, gay and so called straight, progressive and conservative, left and right - With a heart tuned to seek constantly the heart of and will of Christ I acknowledge - All means all.
Some dots around the web about one notion of ALL