Have you ever been on the outside of something, looking in and wondering, “how do I become a part of that?” Unfortunately, I have too many times! For instance, at the ripe old age of eight my childhood next-door neighbour invited every kid on the street but me to his birthday party. When I asked why he said, “you know why”. Honestly! It’s one thing to be deliberately excluded from a birthday, but so much worse to be confused about why.
Conversely, in 2010 when the Winter Olympics were hosted in Vancouver and Canada won the gold medal, I’m pretty sure every Canadian celebrated. I remember walking downtown Vancouver with throngs of people high-fiving, shouting, celebrating and enjoying the defeat of a US hockey team. I felt alive, connected, and free. Much like my experience of being rejected, I also vividly remember the times I’ve been openly accepted.
In the Bible, there’s a character named Zacchaeus. He is a man generally hated for his shady profession, his stature is noticeably short, and he is unable to get anywhere near Jesus, a person he desperately wants to connect with. Zacchaeus on many levels does not fit in. However, there comes a moment in the story where Jesus points Zacchaeus out in a crowd and invites himself over for dinner. Things are about to change for this social outcast! Zacchaeus responds quickly, clambering out of a tree he is perched in, and takes Jesus to his home. At this point Zacchaus is downright giddy. Jesus saw him and gave him value. The point the author of this story is making is that Jesus cares for “the one”. Although Jesus is often surrounded by a crowd, his attention is turned by “the ones” who are separate, distant, and misfit.
The reality is that we can all relate to Zacchaeus. We’ve done things… some good, some bad, some wise, some foolish. We’ve been stuck on the outside looking in wishing we were better, wiser, richer, or good enough. Jesus though is inviting humanity, you and I, into a new existence where performance doesn’t buy you credibility, wealth doesn’t achieve you more accolades and good behaviour doesn’t impress. Encouragers, haters, lovers, doubters, over zealous, under paid, overrated, strict, terrible drivers, religious, and insecure are being beckoned into a new community, a new paradigm, a new existence. The invitation is for all!
In another book of the Bible, Ephesians, the author writes that those who follow Jesus “are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of his household” (Eph 2:19). No one left out, excluded, or rejected. Interestingly enough, those who were “religious” were often appalled as they watched Jesus associate with and show kindness to the least deserving, outcast person. Especially someone like Zacchaeus.
As Centre Church launches in Clayton Heights, our prayer is to welcome all people, from all walks of life. To us, it is the only way to begin a new church. In Jesus’ life, he was persistently accepting, and when he died on the cross, it became official: we can belong to his family. Whether you are Christian or you’re not, know that Jesus came for all people and welcomes all people. In Jesus we all find ourselves in community. In Jesus we find acceptance, love and purpose. In Jesus we find our centre.
Hope to see you at Centre Church one day!