One of the things I love most about the United Methodist Church is how the table is open to all people. There are no restrictions placed on who can receive the Lord's Supper. In fact, our founder, John Wesley, believed that one could actually experience God for the first time in the bread and the wine. This openness at the table has led to a more open church, I like to believe. I like to believe that the church is open to all people - that the doors of the church are open for all people to come in and receive love and hospitality. But....
I'm really struggling today.
For the last three years, I have had the extraordinary privilege of serving as the pastor of someone who has taught me more about the Kingdom of God than anyone else. Through this person, I have shared a love of older adults and Popeye's Chicken, a love of taking care of the church building and artwork, a love of music and a love of prayer. Through this person, I have seen the power of a church community. It is our church family who has given this individual more medicine than anything else as people have accepted this person almost unconditionally. There have been some Sundays when we did not know what to expect from this person - how this person might respond or react. There have been some Sundays when we were not sure what this precious child of God would say during the sharing of joys and concerns - the concern expressed once was "how the pastor was having to pick up too much poop from the homeless outside." Yet, this person has brought joy and life to our community. This person is integral - central - to who we are as a community of faith. I adore this person.
But I'm really struggling today.
When does the church give up on someone? When does the church reach the place where it is more dangerous to let someone in the doors than it is to keep them out? Is there anyone who is beyond redemption? What are we to do in situations like this one?
Damn it. Why is ministry so messy?