Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Exclusion :: The Rt. Rev. Edwin F. Gulick, Jr.


The older son is steeped in the justice of Deuteronomy. The younger son should be stoned, not welcomed. The elder brother's rage is his dearest possession. When rages possess us there are no brothers or sisters—just other folk's sons and daughters. He wants the stones, not a party. He wants his brother to stand naked in the truth of his sin and not clothed in the robes of undeserved status.

So where is hope? Hope is in the fact that the father will not exclude this elder son either. He went to him as he sprinted to the more prodigal of the boys. “All I have is yours. I always track you both in my heart.”

Jesus would not exclude and it got him crucified. As Rowan Williams puts it so bluntly, Jesus does not so much impart truths from his Father but he himself is what the father says.
Could it be that what God sent Jesus for is this: to save us from the ultimate sin, the sin of exclusion? To save us from being Pharisees, God's agents of punishment for the sins enumerated in Deuteronomy? Or did he come merely to save us all from Satan's sins when we had gone astray?

Contrast with what Philip Turner writes:

I took up a post at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest. Full of excitement, I listened to my first Student sermon - only to be taken aback by its vacuity. The student began with the wonderful ques­tion, "What is the Christian Gospel?" But his answer, through the course of an entire sermon, was merely: "God is love. God loves us. We, therefore, ought to love one another." I waited in vain for some word about the saving power of Christ's cross or the declara­tion of God's victory in Christ's resurrection. I waited in vain for a promise of the Holy Spirit. I waited in vain also for an admonition to wait patiently and faithfully for the Lord's return. I waited in vain for a call to repentance and amendment of life in accord with the pattern of Christ's life.
(Emphasis on merely is added.)

"Amendment of life in accord with the pattern of Christ's life." Oh, I see. That would mean breaking mores in order to reach out to those cut off by the community because the community has made the judgment that they are unclean and undeserving of a steadfast love of God. Sounds radical to me. Doesn't sound vacuous.

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