A bumper sticker compassionately proclaims, “God bless the whole world. No exceptions.” The sentiment echoes that of Paul in today’s reading. Paul is writing to Gentile Christians who are suffering from an insidious form of Christian exclusivism. These Gentiles believe that God’s new covenant made through Christ extending to Gentiles now no longer includes Jews. A few years earlier, at the first church council, people argue the other way: that one has to be Jewish—even circumcised if male—to be Christian. The council is clear—God’s covenantal love, revealed in Jesus, extends beyond Jews to include Gentiles as well. Now, Gentile Christians are arguing the reverse. They suggest that the covenants God has made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and with the twelve tribes of Israel are now voided altogether. Jews are no longer God’s chosen people—only Gentile Christians are.

Paul rebukes this exclusion. He implores the Gentile Christians to recognize that the God Abraham knew is the same God Jesus knew, that the covenant God creates in Christ includes all persons—Jews, Greeks, Romans, barbarians. In Christ, God has reconciled all of humanity to God. The God who loves one is the God who loves all.

Christianity carries a tragic history of exclusivism. Through the centuries, Christians have waged violence against Muslims, Jews, pagans, witches, and hosts of persons deemed infidel. This is an abysmal violation of Paul’s gospel message. To proclaim that Jesus is Lord is to proclaim that a God of love and compassion governs and sustains our universe. The inclusive love that moves Jesus to dine with sinners, befriend outcasts, embrace untouchables, and pray for persecutors has beaten the powers of hatred and exclusion. In a world where divisiveness threatens us anew, this is our faith: No more in-groups, no more out-groups. God blesses the whole world. No exceptions.

May our hearts be as big as yours, God—big enough to embrace the entire world. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Matthew 14:22-33

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Lectionary Week
August 3–9, 2020
Scripture Overview

The strange dynamics in the history of Abraham’s family continue in Genesis. This week his great-grandson Joseph is sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. God will ultimately use this for good, as we read in Psalm 105, but in Joseph’s time there clearly is significant dysfunction. Perhaps the story brings encouragement to those of us who also have challenging family dynamics. Paul emphasizes in Romans that every person is welcome to call on the name of the Lord and be saved, but it falls to us to offer them the good news. How can they believe if they never hear? In the Gospel reading, Peter learns a valuable lesson about trust. He initially shows great faith, but he falters when he allows himself to be distracted by the waves.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28. In the face of cruelty, how do you continue to believe in God’s dream of unity for us all?
Read Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b. When has a glimpse of God absorbed your pain?
Read Romans 10:5-15. When have you witnessed Christian violence against persons of other faiths? How does your faith compel you to proclaim God’s love for all—“no exceptions”? What does this look like for you?
Read Matthew 14:22-33. When have you struggled to trust Jesus through life’s trials? How has Jesus revealed his presence and companionship anyway?

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