February 15th was “exclusion day” here in Oregon. Perhaps some of you are nodding knowingly, “ah, yes, exclusion day”. I tend to live with blinders on, so some common knowledge just slips right by me and I get rude, surprising wake up calls. Exclusion day was such a wake up call.
On Wednesday I dropped the Princess of at school and met my walking buddy at our favorite park. After an hour of walking around the most beautiful park in the Columbia River Gorge, I hopped in my car and looked at my phone. Three missed calls from the school! My inner, parental alarms were deafening, my child must be severely broken or sick or....
I called the school and the nurse assured me the Princess was fine, but she needed to be picked up. It was exclusion day and we were behind on her immunizations. I knew we were behind, I just had no idea the ramifications that would be taken! Now, to be clear, I'm cool with immunizations. I believe Malaria will be wiped out of Africa soon because of them, I have no desire to enter the not-so-long-ago Polio era AND for those who are immune-compromised or fighting any disease or infection, I think immunizations are a gift of God for the health of the whole.
The story ends just fine – after a little fuss with our Minnesota clinic we got the records we needed, the medicine was injected and after some ice cream and hugs, the Princess recovered. What left a lasting mark on my psyche is...exclusion day.
Has there ever been an uglier phrase? Exclusion day.
Exclusion: to be ordered out of any place or community.
To be shown a sign of unwelcome,
to be actively dismissed.
I am not sure there is anything so hate-filled, so contrary to the gospel that we, as people, can do to one another. All day I thought about exclusion, when and how I participate in the exclusion of others. Or that horrible pit in my stomach when I feel I have been excluded. There are so many societal trends that encourage exclusion...holding phones and computers and letting them stand between ourselves and others. Building back decks, instead of front porches. Gated communities, keep out signs (which are all over my church's parking lot!).
Why does exclusion hurt so, damn much?
How am I participating in exclusion?
How is our church participating in exclusion?
How is our nation participating in exclusion?
No small questions, and I offer no wise answers. These are simply the conversations I have been having with myself lately.
As I am serving a Methodist congregation, I report to a district superintendent. He has great stories and antidotes and he is well known for telling congregations, “If Jesus would have done it...you cannot say “no”.”
Well, there are instances where Jesus draws line and practices exclusion (especially in Matthew's gospel account). However, the scenes are usually set by the human nature which draws lines and laws and says “keep out” to others. Jesus responds with grace, love and a whole lot of inclusion....in these scenes, the ones who are excluded are the ones who fight against grace.
May every day, be INCLUSION day.