collage of faces

I’m sitting on a rocking chair overlooking lake Coeur d’Alene at Lutherhaven. The air is crisp and quiet with a sprinkle of birdsong and the sporadic rush of wind through pine. I am here for the Lutheran Outdoor Ministries Total Inclusion Symposium, representing Luther Heights Bible Camp as a board member.

When you hear the phrase total inclusion what do you imagine? Do you nod, “Yes, Of course.” and move on? Do you feel suspicions rise or irritation at some association the phrase made within you? There are a lot of buzz words out there that make a big impact in the way they are used. No matter what your response to the phrase “total inclusion” it is good to consider it in partnership with Paul’s words to the Corinthians:

“14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect, 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”

The phrase, “all means all ” has become an umbrella statement that does enough to appease some, but has unfortunately become a shorthand, unexamined cliche. In comparison, Paul writes about the Body of Christ with specificity, spending time naming overlooked and underestimated parts of the body and lifting up their value to the whole body. The passage ends with the assertion that we are made in our diversity to care for one another, to be stronger together.

We need to constantly and consistently consider our understanding of what we mean when we say, “all,” as well as how this understanding moves into our daily action to and for others. Where are our blind spots? Who are we forgetting with our catchy quips? Where and when is it necessary to name and claim specific members of the Body of Christ? When practicing inclusion we open ourselves to more fully knowing the body of Christ in our midst. When you think, “all are welcome, ” or, ” all means all, ” take some time to get specific, pray over your biases and blind spots. Remember the body of Christ is more fully present when more people are present.

Let us pray…

God we are so often limited by our language and understanding. Open our hearts, minds, and lives to live in a way that more fully reflects your love for all creation and every member of the Body. Help us recognize when we are more focused on our comfort, or defending our biases, than developing a relationship with someone or group of people we consider different or abnormal. Forgive us for not recognizing members of your body when they are in our midst. Thank you for the beauty of your diverse creation and all the ways we know you through it. Amen.

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