Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I know that it probably sounds totally nuts coming from the lady who is usually standing at the front of our sanctuary preaching sermons and leading worship – but I am a full on – dyed in the wool – introvert. Yes that’s right I am an honest to goodness introvert. I always have been, and I assume that I always will be an introvert.
And given the opportunity in almost any social situation – I will hang back and find a quiet corner or a sunny spot – pull out my yarn (because I always – always have a knitting project with me) and I will knit and people watch.
I think people are sometimes intriguing and often mystifying.
I people watch at family gatherings. The McFarland – Markward clan and our assorted friends and kin are truly an “interesting” lot. Watching them is better than anything you will ever see on Netflix – Youtube – or even PBS (why – yes I am a nerd what gave me away)!
I also people watch at sporting events. Frankly at most sporting events I spend more time people watching than I do watching the actual activity on the field. I people watch in line at the grocery store. I people watch in restaurants and at the gym. And just about every place I go.
But one of my very favorite places to people watch is at church. I love – love – love to “Lutheran watch.” Quite simply – there are few things I love more in this life than standing in the back of our narthex or in a corner of the fellowship hall and just watching Lutherans being together. It is seriously cool. You should try it once all of this social distancing is over. I assure you – you will be in for a real treat.
And the diversity in just one – not so big – Mid-Western/Southern-ish Lutheran church family is truly amazing. There are babies – toddlers – kids – and lots of grown-up types with gray hair or with not very much hair at all! Some of us have been married forever. Others are divorced. Some of us aren’t married. Some of us are parents and some aren’t. Some are grandparents. Some aren’t. Some of us are retired and some of us are just plain jealous! There are Republicans and Democrats and Independents. We have all sorts of different income levels and education levels. There are UK fans and U of L fans and some folks who just don’t care!
And I have noticed that these wild and wonderful people have an opinion about absolutely – positively everything from parenting to communion wine to the President of the United States of America. Which is all intriguing and makes for great – often highly animated conversation.
But what moves me so deeply is the way this incredibly – wildly – wonderfully diverse group of people gathers together to worship God and to pray for and with one another. The way we lay aside our differences to gather at the Lord’s Table to celebrate communion. The way we join our diverse voices together to sing the very same hymn. The way we pray the same Lord’s Prayer.
And the way we work together to pull off a seriously awesome week of Vacation Bible school summer after summer.
Or the way we collected 700 rolls of TP for the Fern Creek/Highview United Ministries in September and then in December made up 28 Christmas dinner baskets for FCHUM. Or just last week – in the midst of this incredibly stressful – frightening time we worked together to fill Dorothy’s car with groceries for the Fern Creek/Highview United Ministries food shelf to help feed our neighbors in need.
Some Sundays – as I look around our fellowship hall during a particularly noisy, boisterous coffee hour – I think to myself – this is exactly what heaven is going to look and sound like. Not because we all agree on child rearing and politics and communion wine. And not because I don’t make some of you absolutely – positively nuts with my hippy dippy tree hugging – recycling – vegetarian ways! But because all of us are all gathered together. And we don’t always agree. Because we are so wildly and wonderfully different.
As I look around the room and I take in our diversity and our huge differences of opinion and our passionately held – sometimes polar opposite beliefs – I take a deep breath and I think to myself this is what heaven will be like. (And I hope there are really yummy coffee hour treats in heaven too! I really – really hope for that.)
Heaven is going to be wild and wonderful and incredibly diverse. And I bet that it is noisy too! It will probably be really – really noisy!
Jesus showed us a glimpse of this heavenly diversity in our Gospel reading for today. Think about the people who were gathered around that very first Communion table for the Last Supper with Jesus.
There was Peter – the fisherman – turned disciple who denied knowing Jesus when Jesus needed him the most. But Peter was also the rock the Christian church was built on.
There was Thomas – who we call the doubter. But his doubting didn’t last for very long and he soon became Believing Thomas – the evangelist.
There was Matthew – the thieving tax collector. Turned disciple and Gospel writer.
James and John the sons of Zebedee – fishermen and preachers of the Good News of God’s grace – love – and mercy. Who Jesus also called the Sons of Thunder . . . (coolest nickname ever!)
Judas Iscariot was there too. He was a thief and a traitor. Judas actually stood up from this very table and went to turn Jesus in to those who would later crucify him. And yet – Jesus washed Judas’ feet and welcomed Judas to the table. Even Judas – the great betrayer – was welcome at the table with Jesus.
This great big table held at least 13 people that evening. There were deniers, doubters, fishermen, tax collectors, sons, sinners, friends, brothers, soon to be saints – and a Savior. Because Jesus is about to die on the cross for all of them.
And Jesus is about to make all of them the forgiven, redeemed children of God. Clearly our God delights in diversity and makes room at his table and in his heart for everyone.
God makes room for all of us.
There is room for each and every one of us at God’s table and in the Lord’s family. God loves everyone equally and values everyone equally too. And this I believe is – very – very Good News indeed. Amen!