There is a strange thing happening in this world, and I noticed the other day when I was at the hospital: the hospital was crammed with sick people.
I noticed another thing when, later on in the week, I had to take my car to the garage: the garage was crammed with people who needed their car fixed.
The fact of the matter is that when we need something, we go somewhere. When we need food, we go to the grocery store; when we need tools, we go to the hardware store; when we need guitar strings, we go to the music store.
Our whole economy is based on need and need-fulfillment. The Gospel passage for this week (Luke 15:1-10) brings up some very interesting questions: What need does the church fulfill? Who needs church?
In the Gospel passage, the Pharisees rebuke Jesus for eating and talking with the "undesirables" of society: the sick, the tax collectors, the prostitutes. Those that the Pharisees had rejected for being unable or unwilling to follow all the rules. Those that the Pharisees deemed profane, deeming themselves to be righteous.
It seems blindingly obvious that these were exactly the people Jesus would and should have spent time with. Those who are broken need to be mended. Those who are alone need a companion. Those who are friendless need a friend. Those who are hated need love.
This is exactly what Jesus did, and it ought to be what we do as Christian individuals and Christian communities. Too often, our churches become upper-crusty social clubs that recoil when someone from below the poverty line walks in. To have this reaction cuts against the very grain of what Jesus taught.
Church is supposed to be a place of welcome, of fellowship, of acceptance, of love, of transformation. Most of us who are already there have all of these things in ample measure. The people who need church are the ones who don't have these things.
To hear the podcast of my sermon, click here.