3 03 2021


And we thought the problem of cliques was only something that teenagers battled.

Do you remember when back in High School, there were so many different groups to identify with and find your niche within? The Jocks were the athletes who always wore the uniform of the season in classes every Friday. The Brains were those who never saw anything but “A’s” on the top of their exams and had been weaned towards Princeton from birth. The Bandies were those who played the instruments and excelled in marching on the football field at halftime. The Burnouts were those who were known for their art of smoking in the bathrooms and getting away with it. The Preps were those who donned designer clothing that cost more than all of my outfits put together. The Audio-Visual Crew were those who always got to run the projectors and slide shows and came to the rescue in a moment’s notice if ever there was a glitch on the screen. The Nerds were those who only fit in with each other, but they never seemed to mind. And I’m sure that we could break it down even further if we wanted to, but I’d rather not. I was not a big fan of cliques back then and I’m even more down on it today than I ever was.

Maybe it is because I was a non-conformist who didn’t want to be labeled and hemmed in to any one cluster. I loved sports and was quite good, especially at baseball. I also loved to play piano and sing and was confident enough that if Paul McCartney, John Lennon and Elton John were cool and made hit records, so could I. I was a performer and liked to be in plays. My performance as Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol back at Black River Middle School in Chester, NJ was the stuff that dreams were made of. I was a pretty good student who got enough B’s to keep me humble and when it came to my clothes, I was happy to just wear a shirt and pants. I chose a long time to not drink and smoke because I saw enough tragedy in my own family history of alcoholism to make me run the other way and when it came to trying to be cool, I knew that God had created me with nothing resembling James Dean in my body. Jerry Lewis yes, but a trend setter, not a chance! All in all, I liked to roam from crowd to crowd hoping to get to know as many people as possible. I could pop in just about anywhere with anyone at any given time.

Imagine me, now a Pastor, who still works with people of all ages and all backgrounds in all kinds of contexts. The deadly part of any community is when some insecure self-appointed Leader announces that his or her gang of followers are superior to all others and become every exclusive over inclusive. When a goal of a gathering is to keep people out rather than inviting those around us in, the red flags of “Proceed with Caution,” fly right smack in my eyes. What is it about so called Christians that want to shut God’s created people out rather than invite them into the Heavenly Banquet Hall? I am so sick and tired of manmade standards, that, in reality, I literally have no time to even argue with at this point of my journey. Someone is not rich enough, or smart enough, or tall enough or good enough. There is the right color and the wrong color, the right race and the wrong genes, the chosen neighborhood to be residing in and the over the tracks shacks that should be banished forever. God made it clear that “whosoever will” may come. Thank you, Jesus, that we can enter just as we are, or I would have been left at the landing when the Gospel Train came rolling by. Jesus said that the greatest of these would be happy to be nobodies and the mighty would be the least and the servants would have the most joy in the Kingdom of God.

Personally, I like getting to know people who are different than me. And speaking of different, I recently took the My Heritage DNA Test and discovered that I am nothing like who I thought I was. I’m actually 15% North African Jewish! I love that! It made me want to dance in the streets! I’m even 11% Scandinavian and I can tell you that this wasn’t even on my radar! But ultimately, what makes me who I am is the fact that Jesus loves me and He rescued me when I was in grave danger of throwing God’s gift away because I never believed I measured up. I was using the wrong guidelines. Why would you place your validity in the hands of men when they can’t even get their own stories right? God so loved us that He sent Jesus to redeem us out of the playground of humanity to enter the family room of eternity.

Knock it off with the cliques. Yes, I am a Mets Fan, but I can tell you that there are Philly Fans within my family and my adoration for them has not dropped an iota. Come on, variety is the spice of life. We are not all the same flavor with the same ingredients. Taste and see that the Lord is good, and His people are as colorful as a huge box of Crayola Crayons. Remember, the big one that came with the crayon sharpener? My favorite color is orange! How about you? I like peanut butter better than chocolate! How about you? I like snow! How about you? I listen to my music loud and I will yell out, “I love you!” across the parking lot! How about you? Let’s look for the magic rather than the minutia and let’s make our circle so big, it always has a place to enter!   



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