Teaching Series
Grounded in Love
Sunday—Our Church

Series: Grounded in Love
Message: Our Church
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Mark Witas
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Jenniffer Ogden
Live Beyond: Andrew Jones
Live Purpose: Emily Ellis
Editor: Becky De Oliveira

Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.

Read: Ephesians 3:1-21 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.

Reflect: “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:6).

I hate rejection. It’s just an awful feeling.

When I was a kid, our neighborhood was known for the killer birthday parties parents would put on for their kids. There was always the anticipation that led up to the event that came when the invitations would be personally delivered to our neighborhood mailboxes. Presents were purchased and wrapped, plans would leak out about some of the details of the party, and when the party finally happened, it was usually an epic event.

My birthday is at the end of January, and for my eleventh  birthday, my parents rented out the best pizza parlor in town. It was a place that showed silent movies— the funny kind: Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, and Buster Keaton. The pizza was abundant, the root beer overflowed and the gut laughs watching the movies was good exercise. And the presents. My friends knocked themselves out that year. What a great party.

My neighbor’s birthday was in May. His name was Brett. Brett and I got along great, so when all his birthday invitations went out and I didn’t get one, I kind of wondered why. Was it a mistake? Was it on purpose? I had no idea. So, I asked Brett. He said, “Oh, yeah, my mom and dad don’t want you at my party. They said you aren’t a good influence on me. (That might have had something to do with me shooting up the neighborhood with a bee bee gun a few weeks before.) In any case, I wasn’t invited to the party.

The day of the party came. There was no fence that separated our yards. I could see out of my backyard window all of my friends in full birthday party mode. There was a BBQ, games, cake, and joy. My 11-year-old tears ran freely that day. I felt so rejected. So unwanted. So unloved. I hated it. In fact, if I’m honest, 45 years later, as I write this, I still get a sinking feeling of rejection in my heart as I think about it. It still hurts this many years later. Why?

A year ago I was sitting around the table with all the North American Division college senior pastors in deep discussion about God and man. During the discussion, one of my colleagues said, “The ultimate expression of love is service to another human being.” That sounded right. But it didn’t feel right. I’ve served people whom I didn’t love  lots of times. Giving a homeless person a sandwich or a $20 bill serves them well, but it doesn’t challenge me to love them. These thoughts passed through my simple little brain and then a thought dawned on me and I spoke up.

“I disagree! Service is not the ultimate expression of love. Inclusion is. When someone knows that they are included and a part of our tribe, no matter who they are, where they come from or what they’ve done, that’s when they will feel the most loved and that’s when we have expressed love in the fullest way.”

I fully believe this. With all my heart. That’s why Paul’s explanation of the Gospel is so powerful in the verse above. The Gospel is the inclusion  of the Gentiles as heirs of God’s grace. No condemnation. No rejection. No separation from the love of Christ. Just inclusion.

Recalibrate: Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong? How did you react? Have you ever been the agent of rejection? As you move forward, how can you practice more inclusion in your life and in your church?

Respond: Ask God to point you to someone who doesn’t feel included. Ask Him to help you be an agent of inclusion in their lives.

Research: Here is a challenging article on church and inclusion.

Remember: “The heavenly world will know God's wisdom” (Ephesians 3:10, ICB).

Mark Witas is the lead pastor for the Sunnyside Seventh-day Adventist Church in Portland, Oregon. He is a regular contributor to the Daily Walk.

Share a big cuddle with your little one. Make it the kind of cuddle where you are not thinking of anything else other than how much you love the one in your arms. Rest in this space. Heaven is being wrapped in the arms of the one you love.  Know that when we live love the heavenly world will know God’s wisdom (Ephesians 3:10) and so will we.

Work on remembering The Words to Remember  for the week. (“The heavenly world will know God’s wisdom,” Ephesians 3:10.) When God asked Abram to move, Abram took his whole family with him. He didn’t leave anyone behind! I’ve been left behind before. I walk slowly and my family, who all have really long legs, can walk so much faster! So I have called out for them to wait for me! Imagine what Abram’s family would have felt if they had been left behind because Abram was in a hurry. This week, think about people who may want to spend time with you, but you’ve been busy or move so quickly that you might leave them out or behind. Take time this week to spend time with those people.

Has anyone ever been mean to you? I’m guessing they have. Maybe they called you funny looking or said mean words to your face. Maybe they left you out of a soccer game. Being excluded can be one of the worst feelings in the world. Knowing others would rather not have us around causes deep sadness and makes us feel worthless or even angry. Your mission for today is to try and include people you normally wouldn’t, whether it be a neighbor kid that you don’t play with, a brother or sister, or even a pet you don’t hang out with much. Try your best to be known as someone who is inclusive and involves everyone.

One of my favorite jobs that I have ever done is being a camp counselor. It’s a high energy, exhausting, exciting, rewarding, and fun job. One of the biggest struggles I had as a counselor was figuring out how to create an inclusive environment for everyone in my cabin. A single cabin would include girls from different races, religious or non-religious homes, and different backgrounds. During one week there was one girl who was pretty awkward and came from a very different background than most of the other girls. She would have outbursts, she would get mad at me, and she even ran away from me a few times! However what was beautiful about this was that even though the girls in my cabin had every opportunity to pick on her and exclude her, they always treated her with respect. Their selfless love inspired me to love her as well and to see her through the eyes of God. Each one of us is created in the image of God, so how does this change how we love one another? Ephesians 3:6 talks about how both the Gentiles and Jews who believe in the Good News are part of the same body and belong to Christ. How does knowing this, that all who believe are part of the same body, change the way we treat those who might be different from us?

Zan Long is GRC director for faith development groups. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Jenniffer Ogden serves as the children and family pastor at the Walla Walla University Church in College Place, Washington.
Andrew Jones teaches grades seven and eight at Vista Ridge Academy in Erie, Colorado. He is originally from Oregon and attends Boulder Church.
Emily Ellis is a junior studying theology at Walla Walla University and interning at the Eastgate Seventh-day Adventist Church.

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