I’ve been left wandering in my thoughts in my commute of late with a challenge to reach our world and our local communities more effectively. And my thoughts have considered at times how it was that Jesus drew so many to the kingdom. Here’s my conclusion: Jesus had the ability and willingness to establish permeable walls between himself and his world.
John the Baptist, by calling people to get purified in the water of the Jordan, and Jesus, by calling people to the table as the “place of grace,” were in effect saying the “Temple is not getting the job done as it ought.” Too many are left out, and the priestly establishment needs to hear it.
To establish a new “place of grace,” Jesus chose the table, but not just any table. He chose the regular ol’ dinner table in homes in Galilee. Consider the pictures we’ve seen of St. Peter’s and the Sistine Chapel and then think of just a regular house in Roma and its dinner table. Now you see what he was doing. Jesus democratized the “place of grace,” and called people to come to him.
In so doing, he let people get as close to him as they wanted: they could walk with him daily; they could sit at the table with him daily; they could stand at the back of the room for awhile, until they chose to sit or walk; they could stand at the door and listen in on the conversation; or they could stick their heads through the window to take it all in. Or, they could even just ask others who had been there. No forcing here; just come as you are and as you wish.
This created a permeable wall between him, the kingdom, and the world.
Do churches today have permeable walls? Is it not the case that “strangers” who come to our “churches” know in fact they are strangers. Is it because, and I think it is, we have “impermeable” walls, tall walls, thick walls. Could we perhaps reconsider once again how to reach our community, and think instead of how we can create permeable walls between ourselves and our community?
I welcome your thoughts.