outside the Live Oak Friends Meeting

Recently I was asked about my own understanding of the good news.  The person who asked did so in earnest; I was struck by the simple beauty of the question.  Afterwards, I stumbled through an answer that I later feared was a bit dry.  That initial answer had to do with my understanding and application of Jesus’ teachings and how those teachings had been transformative for me.  (Just in this one-sentence description you can get a sense of my mind’s drift toward the academic.)  A day later I woke with an answer, clear as a bell.  The answer wasn’t a series of theological bullet points or a philosophical dialectic on the nature of liberal Christianity as interpreted by a religious naturalist.  No, my real good news is a story.  Here it is:

When I was a little boy, my mother noticed that I was building something out of couch cushions.  I set the cushions in the shape of a square with an open door and began to work on how I might make a roof out of the available quilts and blankets.  I was building a clubhouse, and, when my mother asked about it, I told her that my club was called The Everybody Club.  “Who can be in it?” she asked.  “Everybody,” I replied, with the seriousness of a boy on a building project.

The good news, in my view, is The Everybody Club.  Though I am now a grown man, it seems to me that my work is essentially the same.  What I hope to do is make of my life, my work, and our church places where everybody can belong.  Rabbi Jesus, as I read him, set about doing this kind of work in his welcome of all, particularly those who were at the margins of his society.  So the basic good news for me is that our church is a place where everybody is welcome.  This has manifested itself in different ways at Covenant as we have evolved over time, expanding the circle of this little beloved community to include people of every gender, sexual orientation and identity, race, ethnicity, class, and religious or philosophical perspective.

Perhaps what has surprised me most is not how strongly this welcome has been felt by visitors to our community.  What caught me off guard was how much I needed this welcome myself.  Finding an expression of Christianity that welcomed me as a minister with doubts, a poet and naturalist, a feminist, a believer in social justice, an oftentimes conscientious objector, a parent, a partner, and a lover of jokes, turned out to be a kind of saving grace.  Over and over again I have found my whole self included (not excluded) and that inclusion has made all the difference.

Other churches may have a more exclusive understanding of the good news.  For me, however, the good news is that everybody is welcome.  No matter what.  I can’t think of a better word than that.  And the house I build out of cushions will never have a door.

So how do you understand the good news?  What is your word or story?

With aloha,

J

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