I was recently telling someone about our church, and who we are, and I was saying something like, “We have liberals and conservatives, rich and poor, straight and gay. We have teetotalers and wine connoisseurs, old and young, Ph.D.’s and high school drop-outs. But above all, we choose to worship the God we find in Jesus Christ together on Sunday morning, and we choose to do ministry together during the week, and we choose to grow together in discipleship.” The person then replied to me: “What a blessing that must be!” To which I kind of smirked…
I smirked because all churches are made up of this blend and mix of people, it is just that some churches celebrate it, others live with it, and others hide it. Our exception is that we publicly and openly say that everyone is welcome in our fellowship, and that we trust in the Holy Spirit to work in and through those who are in our fellowship. I also smirked because there are times when the jury is out over whether or not our diversity is a blessing. It is messy, and we are often less than Christian when we get our feelings hurt, or feel insulted. It is messy when we give validity to the outside world telling us that we have to be on one side or the other of any issue, and that those who stand on the other side of us are “of the devil.”
But we should take heart, for this is the kind of messiness in which Jesus lived and led. Among the disciples were: tax collectors who were considered traitors to God; Jewish Radicals who were convinced the end-times were coming; fishermen of no status whatsoever; and others of various backgrounds. His followers were rich Pharisees and poor prostitutes, blind beggars and Roman centurions. Sounds like our kind of collection, right?
And rather than allowing his ministry to be defined by their agendas, Jesus led by stepping beyond the issues they thought were important, and pointed toward them toward the way of love and grace, and refused to turn away any who wanted to follow him. His way was hard to follow (“take up [your] cross and follow me”), but it was open to anyone. He made their divisions irrelevant by providing grace and forgiveness (with one another and with him), and calling them to ministry together. And that example, that community, is the seed that our faith and our tradition is based upon.
So let us celebrate and proclaim our diversity, let us minister together, and let us love together. Blessings to you, and may worship be a time of God’s work in your life.