In the wake of her untimely death, I find myself reflecting on these prophetic words of Rachel Held Evans: “The folks you’re shutting out of church today will be leading it tomorrow. That’s how the spirit works. The future’s in the margins.” I admire the deep truth and the encouraging hope of this statement. The writer of Mark’s gospel might also argue that the church has always existed in the margins, even at the beginning. Levi and the other tax collectors are no more welcome in the first-century fellowship hall than those the church often excludes today. Realizing that Levi and his friends are welcome at a table with the Son of God is surprising. Knowing that Jesus is actually invited to their table is even more radical.
In a 2018 interview, Evans continued this conversation about “the poor, the marginalized, the lonely, the left out.” She had written extensively about the church’s need to extend the sacraments to the marginalized, but recognizing that “the spirit is so active in those margins” led her to an even more profound truth: “I need to be in the margins having them serve me communion.” When we are open to explore that possibility, we discover that the church receives more gifts from the margins than the number of gifts we have to offer.
Mainstream Christianity may lose sight of this revolutionary picture of God’s table, but Jesus never did. Clearly Jesus saw something in Levi, and in fishermen, and in women, and in so many other unlikely leaders that he knew was necessary for the future of the church. God, give us the vision and courage to open our minds and hearts to do the same.
Jen Hatmaker, “Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church with Rachel Held Evans,” For the Love of Exploring our Faith: Episode 6, Podcast audio, 2018, http://jenhatmaker.com/episode-06-rachel-held-evans.htm.
What keeps me from stepping into the margins and sharing Christ’s table?
Lord, teach us why you are leading us to draw wider circles. Amen.