I had never really thought about it this way. I knew the stories but had not put them together in a pattern. But recently I read that repeatedly in the story of Jesus, the people who are closest to him erect barriers around him to keep others out. They push the children away but Jesus says, “let the children come to me.” A paralytic man is blocked by the crowds so his friends lower him through the roof to see Jesus. The unpatriotic cheat named Zacchaeus is kept at bay so he climbs up in a tree to sneak a peek at the savior. Repeatedly the faithful push away the marginalized. Which made me wonder, what I might be doing to keep people away.
It’s a funny thought, because as Christians we often picture ourselves as those who pave the way for others to know of God’s love. But perhaps there are subtle things we do to keep the retaining wall in place. I think of the young man who told me a few months ago that he saw some friends at church one day. “We didn’t know they were looking for a church. We see them all the time and never thought to ask them to come to the church we love so much.”
I thought of all this on Wednesday night during Backyard Bash. The children and adults built boats and then hosted a regatta in the reflecting pool on Ward Parkway. The week before that senior adults and toddlers gathered together for a drumming session while other practiced contemplative prayer in the chapel (with the drum beats in the background). Folks gathered to hear Joe Walker teach about “green burial” practices and others to learn how to tie a bow tie with Mike Graves. Not only did folks enjoy the gourmet grill cheese from the food truck, some rich fellowship under a shade tree and a fun activity, hopefully we also lowered the barriers that accidentally get erected to keep folks away from the saving power of Jesus’ love.