Homily- Include or Exclude

August 20th, 2020 by admin-su



Include or Exclude?

The phrase all-inclusive is one we usually equate with holidays. You pay one price and everything is included even some things you might not be interested in. The readings set for today are also about inclusiveness – God’s inclusive love for all his creatures; and that includes some that we might not be interested in or would even exclude.

This inclusiveness starts out in the Psalm set for today saying “May your ways be known throughout the earth, your saving power among people everywhere… may all the nations praise you.(Psalm 67.2-3 NLT )  King David is asking God to include the whole world in his plan to save so that all nations will praise him. Isaiah joins in and through him God declares my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations. For the Sovereign Lord, who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says: I will bring others, too, besides my people Israel.(Isaiah 56.7-8 NLT)


Jesus himself joins in this inclusive talk saying “I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.” (John 10.16 NLT)

God is inclusive – we humans tend not to be inclusive, we frequently exclude those whom we dislike or those that are different from ourselves. In our gospel reading we see this human trait of excluding others even in Jesus himself. The reading centers around a gentile woman with a demon-possessed daughter begging Jesus to cure her. Jesus first of all totally ignores her, not even speaking to her. Finally he tells her “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.(Matt 15.24 NLT)

Clearly she is not included.

He even goes so far as to insult her, equating her with a dog It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.(Matt 15.26 NLT) I find a couple of things in the gospels that both upset me and at the same time gladden my heart. I’m upset that Jesus seems to stoop to that level – gladdened insofar as it clearly reveals Jesus’ humanness. Jesus demonstrates a reaction that we would see as very human, human just like you and me.

Back to the gentile woman: far from being offended by being equated with a dog, quick witted and earnestly she counters back instantly using the same image That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.(Matt 15.27 NLT)

What a response, it must have really touched Jesus, because he praises her great faith and as we know he goes on to heal her daughter;

Jesus’ humanity is put aside and his divinity shines through. Something she recognized in him where the disciples had yet to!

As the account soon reveals even further, the all inclusiveness of God’s love.

As Jesus soon encounters a vast crowd made up of many who “brought to him people who were lame, blind, crippled, those who couldn’t speak, and many others. They laid them before Jesus, and he healed them all.” (Matt 15.30 NLT) And if we needed any more proof of the all inclusive love of God is verse 31 which states “they praised the God of Israel.” This tells me that many of that crowd were gentiles whom Jesus cured and so they praise the God of Israel.

If they were only Jews in Jesus presence, scripture records it different by saying ‘they praise God’ rather than in this case which states ‘They praise the God of Israel. .

so, what you may ask,

this account as with so many others speaks very clearly that faith is inclusive when often religion excludes.


The Jewish religion excluded anybody but a Jew, hence Jesus’ initial reaction to that woman.

Even Christians aren’t immune to excluding others, be judgmental against those who worship others who are claiming faith in the same God, who is Father Son and Holy Spirit. And even individual Christians can be exclusive

I have recently heard of a tragic situation where a young couple in love and planning life together in marriage, one came from a very strict Breatheran ‘denomination and the other a very devoted Christian of an Anglican denomination. The family could not cope with the idea of their son (bretheran marring someone outside ‘their’ group.

And even some of the same denominations can be judgmental and inclusive.

For many years after the reformation, if you weren’t a Catholic you weren’t going to heaven.

And as for other faiths or those of no faith…

Fortunately for us God is bigger than our pettiness.

He tells us “I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work. God’s Decree. For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think. (Isaiah 55.8-9 MSG)

One particular well known hymn that speaks about this inclusiveness of God’s love.

There’s A Wideness In God’s Mercy puts it quite plainly telling us

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, Like the wideness of the sea; There’s a kindness in His justice, Which is more than liberty.

There is welcome for the sinner, And more graces for the good; There is mercy with the Saviour; There is healing in His blood.

There is grace enough for thousands Of new worlds as great as this; There is room for fresh creations In that upper home of bliss.

For the love of God is broader Than the measure of our mind; And the heart of the Eternal Is most wonderfully kind.

It is God: His love looks mighty, But is mightier than it seems; ’Tis our Father: and His fondness Goes far out beyond our dreams.

But we make His love too narrow By false limits of our own; And we magnify His strictness With a zeal He will not own.

Was there ever kinder shepherd Half so gentle, half so sweet, As the Saviour who would have us Come and gather at His feet?

We sing it I’m sure, believing in every word, but in reality do our words reach our heart and soul.

Do we recognise the times the love and inclusivity Jesus shows us may not be as open to others

Does our ‘broken’ humanness make his love too narrow by false limits of our own;

and so we magnify his strictness with a zeal he will not own.

We are the gentiles that were once excluded from the ‘fold’

We were the outcast, the outsiders that the disciples would have at one time rejected.

Let’s us be a people of faith and not simply religious,

let’s rejoice that God’s love is inclusive and let’s allow (and even help NLT) him to create that one flock with one shepherd. AMEN