Who is in; Who is out

May 11, 2014    

Gates keep people out and let people in. Robert Frost had the idea in his poem "Mending Wall,"

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
...
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

From the beginning of the Church it has been a central question:
    who can be in and
    who must be out

The first Church fight was about you and me,
    (Gentiles Out / Jews In)
around the year 50 AD at the Council of Jerusalem.

In Acts 15, there are two accounts of this meeting - Eastern and Western.  The Western version has the negative form of the Golden Rule,

"And whatever things you do not want done to you, do not do them to another."

It makes you wonder, "what part of love don't we understand?"

Through the years the list has changed about who can be in and who must be out:

    Women - Antoinette Brown ordained in 1852

Skip to 1944 and an Episcopal woman was ordained in Hong Kong.  In 1974, two women in the US were ordained.

In 1785, Lemuel Haynes was the first African American minister.  He was quickly followed in 1804 by Father Absalom John, an Episcopal priest and Episcopal Saint.

The risen lord raised the gate.

Of course, now the fight of who can be in and who must be out is about gays and lesbians.

    "What about 'love one another' don't we understand?"

Paul tells the Church at Galatians:

"Thre is no longer Jew or Greek.  There is no longer slave or free.  There is no longer male and female.  For all of you are one in Christ Jesus."

We receive our word "hospitality" from the Latin "hospitalis" meaning "guest lodgings."  That is us at our best, a place where strangers are always received with hospitality because we know the gate is open.

In the manuscript "Fencing the Table," Andrew Edgar discusses the practice of the denomination and in particular reflects on the Westminster Assembly's extended debates on the topic.

It may be remarked here in connection with fencing the tables, and the debarring of unworthy persons from the communion, that one of the subjects most vehemently and lengthily discussed in the [doctrinal guidelines] was the principle on which admission to the Lord's table should be regulated.  In different churches different standards of requirement have been set up.  The historical principle of the Church has been that three things are required of those that seek access to communion privileges, first, "that they have a good measure of knowledge, and profess to believe to the truth; secondly, that in their life and conversation they be without scandal, and thirdly, that they be submissive to the discipline of the Church."
To these three qualifications some Churches have added a fourth, and have required that all applicants for communion privileges publicly declare "such clear and certain signs of their regeneration" as will satisfy the minister and elders, and sometimes the majority of the congregation, that they are true Christians born of God and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Pope Francis said, "The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak ...  Frequently we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators.  But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems."

Which brings us to the table.

The Reverend James Hightower