“Enlarge the place of your tent,
stretch your tent curtains wide,
do not hold back;
lengthen your cords,
strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
your descendants will dispossess nations
and settle in their desolate cities.”
— Isaiah 54: 2-3
It is a scary thing to let the ones who have been at the bottom rise to the top.
It’s scary when privilege begins to lose.
It’s scary when those that have been “other” for so long get a place at the table.
It’s scary when things get uncomfortable and messy.
But then, that’s Kingdom.
Our church conversations today revolve around who’s in and who’s out, who’s included and who’s excluded.
But change is coming, whether we are ready for it or not.
If the Kingdom of God is inching closer and closer like we think it is, it also means that the ways in which we have been so comfortable in our church pews is also going to change.
It means the table has to get bigger, and if it doesn’t, the eating place will be moved outside where the world waits with the holy meal.
Isaiah speaks to the barren woman and gives her a powerful word: Enlarge your place, build and live and thrive. Enjoy your life and move in the grace that God has given you, for you are loved and valued.
This was not just one barren woman, or one space in time. This is still a word for the people who have been displaced, forgotten, cursed, pushed aside because they weren’t good enough to enter the church doors. This word is for those who are actually being the church out there.
They are making space for the kingdom of God.
If we are wise, if we are the Christ followers we say we are, we will go to them. We will ask to sit at their tables, listen to their stories, share in their salvation.
For too long, our Christianity has been one based on domination, on bodies in pews, on dogma and belief. And while many Christians have been a force of incredible good in this world, the loudest voices, speaking from our congregations and institutions, have been voices of privilege, judgment, and oppression.
We try to answer questions about why people are leaving the church in huge numbers, but we ask them in our meetings with the doors closed, or we ask them on the streets where the “darkness is.”
But if we consider for a moment that the world God created in the beginning is still a world that is working its way toward true and full shalom, then we consider that every created thing is a part of that.
Everyone holds the life of God inside our very bodies, our very souls, and for all of those people who have chosen to find Jesus outside the walls of the church, we make space to understand that they journey toward shalom, too.
The traditional structure of the church has always said that the church is the answer. While the church may have answers, there are just as many answers out there, at the bottom, where the hurting people are.
There are answers in the racially, economically, religiously, and socially outcast people who cannot find a safe place in church.
And if we have a problem, it is that we have not listened to them, not brought them in, not realized that they also hold sacred space. So we must redefine our attitudes and beliefs, beginning with them. And when we choose to do that, we will find the gospel of Jesus.
We must look them in the eyes and humbly ask to sit at their tables so that we can learn from them, so that the kingdom of God can remind us who we are supposed to be.
We must change our perspective so that we can see how they flourish, thrive, and live in the love of God as God has given love to them.
We must come to the reality that one day, if our institutions fail, they will be the ones who move in and bring shalom to our empty places.
At least in the U.S. church, the pyramid is toppling. We cannot continue to be the way we have been. The marginalized will rise to the top with the Kingdom of Jesus, and we need to make room — because they already have.