Some of you are safer drivers than I am. I am sure that some of you are likely less safe drivers than I am. Some of you are prettier than I am, some of you, not so much. Many of you live in a larger house than I do, many of you roam fewer square feet in your homes than the Carnahans.
People do not live in a single community, a church only of their own choosing and find within that community, people who are just like them, who have the same views, the same economics, the same social values, we are not homogenous.
You are sitting next to people of different politics, different ideas about how the world ought to be run and different ideas about how the church ought to be run. It isn’t just at church that this is true, it is true in restaurants and in civic organizations, even at the monthly meetings of our political parties there are disparate views on many, many things.
There is a name for this phenomenon that is an important one to know. It informs how we might best navigate this sea of differences, how we might survive the storms of opinions and expectations.
The word we use for that state of affairs in which everyone is entitled to their own opinions is: Humanity.
I do not think that the diversity is an accident either. I that it is all a part of the plan, a part of creation as deeply ingrained as the inability for mankind to not fall into sin or the rising of the sun in the east each morning. It is a part of the design of the creation, and like all of the other parts of the design, we can see it as a curse, but we ought to see it as a blessing.
Not that it is going to work in our favor all of the time, not that it is going to be a comfortable state of affairs any of the time but among the promises of our God, amidst the promises of eternal love and everlasting lovingkindness which in religious terms is all one word, “lovingkindness,” and remission of sins and everything else that the lord our God has promised to us, a comfortable state of affairs is not to be found on that list.
“Easy” is most often found on bumper stickers and motivational posters. Easy Does It. Take it Easy.
Comfortable, heck comfortable isn’t even in the scriptures. Comfort, to be sure, but comfortable? Comfort is used in the sense that when things get too rambunctious God will be there and the presence of the Lord will remind us of the rest of the promises and we will feel comfort, but it will likely not be our state of being any time soon, not this side of Eden at least.
I bring not peace but a sword. Brother will turn against brother. The people lived in deep darkness. This is the state of the world that the Lord describes for us in the scriptures, not because this is what God wants for us, but because this is what God sees in us. God knows us too well to not see the truth of the matter and loves us too well not to tell us the truth.
There will be struggle; we will likely not be comfortable.
One of the commentaries for this week calls Psalm 27 one of the, “brightest jewels in the Psalter,” because it is such a happy piece of scripture. This is a good thing, it is a song of faith and of hope and of well, more faith. But it is fairly uncommon in that it is so darned happy. There is no conflict in it, the psalmist is not pleading with God, he is rejoicing with God, even when it sounds like a request, it is not.
But there is a balance too. There are psalms at the other end of the spectrum, My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” you thought- Jesus made that up? Even in the psalms there is the admission that it will not be easy, that there will be conflict, there will be sorrow and we will struggle and sometimes we will fail and sometimes we will fall.
God is not telling us any lies. God is simply sharing with us that God knows us, sees us, and will not abandon us no matter the struggles we get ourselves into here in this life we have been given.
Which is why it has always confused me when people set standards for participation in a certain group, litmus tests all members much pass in order to be ”in” and not “out.” In our political sphere it seems that both sides have those tests, conservatives and liberals each trying to make their team the most homogenous, trimming off the outliers and creating unity.
Sorry, but that is just nonsense. It is in open defiance of the way things are, the way that the scriptures have told us it will be and must be, and in defiance of everything we ought to have learned about human nature in the many centuries we have been studying ourselves.
It is also counter to the intentions of our God.
We were created with differing opinions, with differing backgrounds with differing values with differing life stories with differing conclusions after years of study and reflection. It is how things are, which to me at least, implies that it is how things were meant to be.
Paul is not breaking any new ground when he calls the church in Corinth out on the reports that he has heard. He is not shocked or perplexed, perhaps a little disappointed, but this is how things work, there will always be factions and once the divisions become so great as to challenge people’s abilities to live together in peace, then there will be divisions, for evidence, see the history of Christianity.
And this is not divisions among thousands of voices, a throng wherein people naturally gravitate to people of similar experiences and worldviews; there are not thousands present, maybe a few dozen, TOTAL. In the church in Corinth there are likely less than sixty, maybe less than forty.
It is the birth of the church. It is the church in its infancy and already, the factions begin, people claim allegiance to this evangelist or that evangelist and claim differing ranks because of it.
God is not promising freedom from factions, never promises an end to divisions until the end of everything comes.
God delivers instead a single idea around which we can gather, no matter our faction, no matter our favorite evangelist, no matter how righteous or how sinful we are. A single idea who walked and talked and cried and rejoiced and shared what it was to be us and shared what it was to be Him, with us.
It robs us of not one bit of our diversity, we are not all transformed into a single mind, even the mind that was in Christ Jesus, like it says in Philippians and again in the letter to the church in Corinth that we read this morning. That mind, that unity of purpose and vision is set before us as a call, not a definition, we are given something worth aspiring to, something that can bring us together as one people and yet not conform us.
Some will still hate broccoli, some will love it. Some will vote conservative, and some will vote very conservative. We are not called into homogeneity, for it is our diversity that lends us our strength once we are gathered around the banner of Christ.
Every issue, every problem, every division is not something static and two-dimensional, stuck to the wall and the same for everyone who sees it. Our world is more complicated and so more wondrous than that. Problems are three dimensional and they can be viewed from all perspectives and perhaps even solved in a multitude of ways.
We are allowed to roam down paths of dubious thinking and even heresy and at the end of the day if we confess Christ and Him crucified, then there is room in the church for us all to be. Revolutionary changes seldom happen and are never easy when they do, but people can be transformed by the witness of a community of diverse people, coming together around a single idea, a single thought, a promise fulfilled.
The diversity of opinion and experience and worldview and skills are what we bring to bear on a world in crisis, in need, standing on the precipice and trying to figure out where to jump next. A single mind could not solve the problems we face in the world, but a community, diverse as God created them, has a shot.
I look to the disciples and I think to myself, “Wow, that’s a lot of fishermen” but then, there were few greengrocers in those days, fewer accountants, no firemen. Diversity is what you make of it. Sure they were all boys, Caitlyn reminds me of this now and then, but still, it is not those being gathered who are the point of the story, not the specifics of which one was a tax collector and which one was an only child and which one was tallest.
It is in the gathering that the story has its power.
We are gathered from all across the spectrum, disciples all, around the common theme expressed so well in today’s Psalm. “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.” We come for salvation from the turmoil outside; we come for the freedom from fear that is found in knowing that you are loved, that you are cherished; we come for the beauty of a people singing with one voice, praying with one voice, speaking with one voice the will of God, that we can be better, the world we live in can be better and that it is our calling to see that will made manifest in whatever ways we are called to do.
If all were fishermen, than I suspect that a fisherman’s solution would be primary in the church’s plans, a maritime ministry? If all were financial planners I’ll bet churches would look different.
But we are a people gathered together around a single idea and yet we are not all the same. The idea has to be a potent one and every time we diminish even a little bit the potency of the idea we foreshorten our reach, we write someone out of the equation, we leave someone behind and despite the fine book sales, Left Behind is not just bad literature, it is bad theology and a bad way to live as disciples of Christ because it says that some people are loved by God and some people are not and we are able to decide which is which and act accordingly.
The idea is a potent one. Sin is real and we are each culpable for what we do but the final comeuppance will not fall across our shoulders, the mantle we have earned with carelessness with the Word, with dissolute living and casual disregard for our neighbor. Christ has come to carry away that penalty and to show us a better way, for we who have walked in deep darkness a light has come.
We do not have to be all the same to follow that light, in fact, it is better if we are not. As the many voices of the body of Christ we can sing harmony and not just melody. We are not just blandly following the words and coming to immediate consensus on the outcomes.
We are the body of Christ, gathered into one by following the light in all of our multitudinous diversity, weirdness and glory, showing forth the Kingdom of God come near and walking together in the name of Christ. Amen.