The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, ministering to Him, loving the name of the LORD, and becoming His servants—all who keep the Sabbath free from profanation and hold to My covenant, them I will bring to My holy mountain and make joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar, for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
Is a picnic the right topic for a sermon? Today we hold our annual parish and community picnic. This is a long-standing tradition. It used to be held at Schenectady’s Central Park. Parishioners and their families would gather in one of the park’s wonderful shelters, near the rose garden, for a day of great food, games, and fellowship. Then, we skipped a year.
Something changed in that brief lull. We found that we missed the picnic. We thought of alternatives. Should we go back to the park? Maybe at pastor Jim’s house? At the same time, we had started our free lunch on Sunday program. We thought, why not combine these events. Why not a picnic right here on the parish grounds – open to all, free – a community event.
Ordinary Time, as we have stated, is a time for reflection, growth, renewal, and opportunity.
Didn’t God readily give us the grace of this chance? That is one of the most wonderful and remarkable things about our God. He actually considers each of us, our family, our community, and He shows up with the grace of opportunity.
This opportunity echoes what we hear in Isaiah. My house, My altar is open to all, free – a community event. This was an amazing and incredible statement uttered by the prophet. The traditional Jewish religious practice of drawing lines that excluded the foreigner and the eunuch are clear in Scripture. Eunuchs were not permitted to enter into the assembly of the Lord and foreigners were an abomination. Suddenly, this is ended by the Lord’s new opportunity. His declaration was not about offering an “olive branch” to the “outsider.” This was not about some kind of associate or junior membership in God’s family. It meant full inclusion for all who are seeking. God’s people, once outcasts, are to be a home for all the world sees as outcasts.
Our opportunity today, and every day, is inclusion and welcome. Our witness in our community, and in our troubled nation, is that the Lord draws no barrier and makes no distinction. The eunuch shall be given better than that given to a son or daughter. The foreigner will be made joyful. What great opportunity we have.
People will come to us. The opportunity is our allowing them to find Christ and home in us. Easy, tidy, not always – God’s word and opportunity – always!