On separation and inclusion.

The Jewish rules of kashrut, the kosher rules, were to ensure purity and separation. They were to keep the Jews safe from being diluted or dirty. The rules reminded them they were separate and special. There were other, similar rules that ensured that they kept apart from people who were not Jewish. These rules created lines of “us and them” and demarcated what was “other”.

Jesus came to erase those lines. He says that there are no distinctions between secular and sacred, between earthly and heavenly. He says in the lingo of today that “It’s all good”.

And it is all good. God looked at the world after he made it and said it was good. God made and continues to make the world. If we believe in a good and loving God, we have to believe that God will only make good things, and that includes people.

They may not seem good to us at the time. They may in fact seem very bad and broken. But if we have accepted Jesus into our hearts and lives, we have to believe that they are in fact good at the core, because Jesus believes that.

Jesus came to say that nothing is broken and nothing is dirty. Jesus came to say that everything is safe. Jesus showed us by getting right in the middle of the world that it is safe.

Jesus touched lepers and didn’t get leprosy. By touching them, he not only healed their condition, he healed their relationship with the community. They were no longer excluded.

Jesus says that when we separate ourselves, when we play it safe, we aren’t being love made visible. He says we aren’t showing trust in God as a loving God when we exclude others.

Jesus came to join together heaven and earth, God and humans. Jesus came to heal all divisions. When we divide, when we exclude, when we limit, we are not being like Jesus. We are operating out of fear instead of love. We are saying that our decisions keep us safe. We are saying that rules keep us safe.

When we do this, we are taking our lives into our own hands instead of putting them in God’s hands.

Jesus chose everybody who was nobody. So should we.

Jesus was constantly breaking the rules. He especially broke the purity rules. Nobody and nothing was unclean or unworthy. His arms were wide enough for everybody.

He talked to the Samaritan woman at the well. Jews and Samaritans never talked to each other. He actually asked her for water. He didn’t obey the traditions that had been part of their upbringings.

He touched a woman who was menstruating. This was unheard of. Even today in Orthodox Jewish culture, women and men sit separately just in case a woman is on her period. Even married couples will sleep in separate beds during a woman’s period and for a week afterwards. For Jesus to touch a woman at all was unheard of.

Jesus touched lepers. Nobody touched lepers. To touch a leper is to become a leper. Lepers had to live outside of the camp for fear of infecting everybody.

Jesus didn’t only touch the untouchables, he hung out with them. He hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes. He hung out with everybody who was nobody. He picked untrained people to be his disciples.

Jesus didn’t choose the educated, the upper class, the elite, the well to do. Jesus didn’t choose the best of the best. He chose the leftovers, the forgotten, the ignored.

Jesus chooses us, too.

Jesus chooses you and me. With our embarrassing laugh and weird fashion sense, he thinks we are cool. With our cowlicks and acne, he thinks we are beautiful, just like we are.

And we, Jesus’ chosen, are to do the same. We are to see the beauty in others. We are to include the excluded. We are to welcome the stranger, the misfit, the weirdo.

There are no misfits with Jesus. He loves us all, and we are to extend that same love and acceptance to everyone. In the same way that we are loved and chosen, we are to love and choose others.

(Written on retreat, 1-17-14, 7:45 pm)