Category Archives: Diversity

Not even close


“The work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross was not only to bring us back into fellowship with God, but also into fellowship with one another.  Indeed, it cannot do one without the other.  If we have not been brought into vital fellowship with our brother, it is proof to that extent we have not been brought into vital fellowship with God.”

| Roy Hession

Daily news is breaking, dashing my soul against stone cold faces.  Hardened heart, I am not moved by the words on the screen.  Another day, another insult.  It means nothing now; there’s nothing to it.  Everybody can do it.  Leaders and followers, there’s no need to bother with truth or integrity or kindness.

Just let it rip!  My heart falls out.  My heart cries out.  Love!  I need a pick me up.

He lies about the caravan, that the threat is approaching us.  Instead, the danger is on the inside of us, closer than we want to admit.  Because it is easier to point the finger than to point out our prejudices, fears and ploys for power.  Bait and switch the subject.  Now, what were we talking about?  What are we talking about Christians when we call people ‘invaders’ of God’s earth?

Because where does God draw the line?  How do we know who’s in and who’s out?  I guess the plan of salvation is mere lip service.  You said it.  You’re saved; now, go away.

Saved but you can’t stay.  Please don’t move next door to me.  No, go back to where you belong though we are all God’s children.  We are family, limb- siblings, fellow members of the body of Christ.

We’re saved not from each other but ourselves.  Praise God!  We are saved but not protected from those people on earth, who don’t talk like us, who speak in other tongues.  And if we can’t say this while professing to be in relationship with God, then we are not even close.

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We’re going to need a bigger table

See the source imageI love Communion, also known as the Lord’s Supper.  More than serving it, I love seeing the people that Jesus prepared a table for.  While our Communion tables could not accommodate all those we serve each Sunday, it is amazing to see just how many persons Christ aims to sit next to.  Forget elbow room or pulling up a chair, there isn’t much room for either.

And what is shared isn’t your typical meal.  By most standards, it isn’t much.  Juice and bread, most prisoners have it better.  But, for us, it is more than enough.  Symbolizing the body and blood of Christ, cramming our mouths with bread or gulping down the juice isn’t the point.  Savoring the morsel of bread, swallowing a meager amount of juice, we are satisfied with full hearts– not stomachs.

Not an invitation only gathering, this catered meal is prepared by Christ alone.  He is serving and being served.  Christ prepares a table and serves himself up to us.  Take and eat.

Christ prepares a table for us in the presence of our sworn enemies.  Leading by example, Christ prepares a table and sits down with his enemy, Judas.  Have a seat.  He makes room for persons who make us want to leave the room.  Jesus sits down when we would get up and storm out.  “I’m not talking to her!”  “I’m not sitting next to him!”

His table is so much larger than our own.  We can seat our four and no more.  During the holidays, we move to the formal dining room to accommodate more persons.  But, still, it is family members only.

When we partake in Communion, we see all the people that Jesus is willing to sit down with, crossing cultures and all of our lines.  He reminds me that the seating arrangement in churches across the country and the world does not accommodate all of his guests.  But, if we want Christ to be fully present to receive them, then we are going to need a bigger table.

A New Revised Serenity Prayer

See the source imageGod, grant me the serenity to accept that people are not the same,

Courage to change my perspective and to challenge my prejudices,

And the wisdom to celebrate our differences.

Amen.

 

 

Acceptance

See the source image“Accept one another, then, just as Christ has accepted you.”

| Romans 15.7, NIV

Spawned by reports of the current American president’s remarks on immigration, which included speaking of Haiti and the entire continent of Africa (i.e. some 54 countries and two de facto territories) in terms unbecoming of a human being– much less a president, the national dialogue has returned to an old argument of race theory.  Race says where we are born determines our social value, that persons are inherently worthy or worthless based on their appearance.  It is a simplistic claim: goodness on location.  Acceptance based on appearance, this is as superficially good as it gets.

Incompatible with the unconditional love of God, “who so loved the world” and inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ, still persons claim that the kingdom of God is “white” and is a single country- the United States.   Today, there are those who continue to believe that God sees the world through blue eyes.  They honestly think that God has goldilocks and only spends time with those people who are “just right.”  Clearly, they have their stories mixed up, adding in a bit of fairy tale into sacred writ.  It is obviously self- serving since only those socially colored white have the right to live happily ever after.

So proud is whiteness that it claims that God desires it, needs it, that God’s power is determined by it.  God must be white if God is to be accepted as all- powerful.

Made of earth, it has always struck me as odd that some dirt, some flesh, some people are perceived as inherently better.  “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…”  Made by the same God, some persons are thought to be created “a little lower than” others.  Not surprisingly, the purpose aligns itself quite neatly with persons who espouse these views and their capitalist goals.  It also matches their will and supports the idea that they are God’s gift to the world.  Thanks but no thanks, Jesus.  What religion is this exactly?

Because the gospel of Jesus Christ will not be racialized. The kingdom of God is not segregated, color- coded, divided up into people groups.  And God is not a Person of color, the trinket of culture, to be accepted if the divine image matches our own.  God is good if God is with us– and not them.  No, God is Spirit and those who worship must worship spiritually and truthfully (John 4.24).  And the truth is, we are not accepted conditionally but gracefully.  “Accept one another, then, just as Christ has accepted you.”

Here is the church

“Here is the church.

Here is the steeple.

Open the doors

And see all the people.”

Life in community is not as simple and straightforward as this children’s rhyme would lead us to believe.  There is more to the church than the building and more to the building than its members.  Instead, we gather each Sunday to experience the transformative message and ministry of Jesus Christ.  But, we do not come without our own cultural expectations and values of what Christian discipleship, fellowship, worship and ministry should be.

Instead, we bring competing and often, cultural Christs, rooted in our family history, social location and personal relationship with the Divine.  Separating cultural identity from Christian identity, cultural values from Christ’s values can be difficult as our faith is expressed through this lens.  But, when our lens becomes the vision or worse still, the image of Christ, what then?  How do we discern between them?

God created the diversity for which we stumble to find words and opportunities to include all people.  Still, conversations centered around culture, community and our Christian values are deep, rich and necessary ones.  Not a simple venture, it is a part of the journey of self- mortification and transformation.  Charles E. Moore writes in Called to Community: The Life Jesus Wants for His People, “Forming community is not just living close to one another.  Prisoners do that.  Rather, community demands personal sacrifice and personal transformation.”   Life in community is not as simple and straightforward as Sunday morning participation.  No, it will require authentic, courageous and intentional change as the Jesus community.

“Here is the church…