Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Jesus' List

I spend my days surrounded by literal and virtual stacks of regulations, rules designed to protect and ensure public funding goes to those defined as the least of these in our communities.  There are both clear and opaque moments in making those funding determinations, overseeing projects and progress attempting to correct economic and social disparities embedded in the very fabric of the historic building I work in, packed into the earth under the dilapidated buildings that housed and fed and were the center of the African-American community until the forward movement of the City cut them off from the white establishment’s move back to further segregation - couched in language of urban renewal.  Sins for which we will continue to bear the consequences for generations to come.

In some ways, it’s work that attempts to decide who’s been left out the most – who has paid the most for an economic system that has rewarded some and penalized others for generations.  Work that seeks out partners who can fix it, or can at least try to, and do so with some measurable result.  As in, good ideas are awesome but if they do not result in someone or some part of the community gaining a foothold that has been inaccessible then it is just a good idea and doesn’t mean much of anything.  All kinds of folks come to the funding table, from those who have led pioneering efforts for 30 years to those so desperate for practical evidence of hope in their neighborhoods they are willing to take on the ridiculous burden of public funding compliance for a handful of dollars to get a fledging idea off the ground.

But then I go to church.  And one of my pastors talks about Jesus’ guest list.  And that guest list is not limited to the people that I want to limit my people to.  That guest list – the one Jesus says matters most – includes more than the least of these and those who want to give their lives to lessen the gap between the least and the most.  Jesus’ guest list has everyone on it.  So Jesus pisses everyone off.  The entitled have to make room for the poor, and the poor have to make room for the rich.  And those in the middle have to stretch both ways.

Not unlike the birthday party we had for the just-turned-6-year-old in our household this past weekend.  She bears the burden of her parents casting a wide net of inviting everyone so no one feels left out, so it was an amalgamation of school classmates and family folks and church friends.  One kid attempted, every time, to open all the presents.  Another took all the bows and pitched a fit when our kid grabbed one back.  Several were simply happy to be there.  The 6.5-year-old who also shares our household made sure I remembered she was still older every minute she could while also delighting in the celebration of her half-sister, and the foster baby charmed everyone in sight.  The uncle and grandmother on hand support our whole family, and celebrate with us on all occasions.  The aunts present did their best to enter our diverse world - while squirming in their seats - but also providing food to show what their words struggle to say.

And so I sit surrounded by well-meaning (mostly) regulations and Jesus’ guest list and find myself exactly where I am supposed to be. Walking in the tension of the well-meaning, giving it all I can to attempt to change course on long-standing wrongs, and constantly reminded of the Table that is, truly, open to us all.  Messy.  Beautiful.  Hard.  Ridiculously time-consuming.  Potentially inching toward the Place where all are one.   All I can say is thank you.