Inclusion and change
Today's reflection is from the Associate Vicar, Rev'd Devin McLachlan "It's not inclusion if you invite people into a space you are unwilling to change." That quote from Dr Muna Abdi has been haunting me all week.
Her challenge is not new. Those of us who heard Canon Stephanie Spellers
spells it out in detail. And those of us who felt disoriented by the present Government's condemnation of racism following the Euro 2020 final in the same week that they also slashed foreign aid and laid plans for rushing to deport asylum seekers, might find Dr Abdi's challenge particularly resonant.
But you don't even have to look to football matches or current events: The entire arc of the gospels — most explicitly but not exclusively in Luke-Acts — is a story of God calling us to change in order to include the full diversity of the kingdom of God. Jews and Gentiles, women and men, the poor, the outcast, slaves and free, soldiers of the Empire and criminals... This was no easy photoshoot diversity. Christ called his followers to not only preach the gospel to all the kingdoms of the world, but also to change the spaces where they lived. Breaking bread together, forging new communities, transgressing the explicit and the unspoken rules of culture and institution, was hard and heartbreaking work which nearly broke the early church in Jerusalem.
It's hard to change our spaces for the better. Flipping tables in the Temple courtyard didn't earn Jesus many friends; Paul was no longer warmly welcomed in the synagogue when he began to break bread with uncircumcised Gentiles. We can pay lip-service in condemning racism in our society, we can even open our eyes to see how the Church of England has been complicit in acts of racism. But to live out the Gospel, we need to be willing to change when the Holy Spirit calls us to account. What are we willing to change, and to sacrifice? In which of my privileges might I be placing my treasure and my heart, at the expense of the Gospel?
Hard questions. But Christ both calls us to repentance, and reminds us that his burden is both easy and light. For being transformed by the stranger, the newcomer, the outsider, is a holy gift at the heart of the Christian journey.