Diversity and Love

This morning we encounter two of my favorite passages paired together.

In fact, it was this pairing three years ago that the message continued to burn within me after the service and I recorded a Facebook video, which led to recording sermon summaries and now full sermons.

These complement the previous two weeks and simplifies an over-arching theme in Scripture, but I will attempt to avoid this becoming a long-winded rant.

This weekend I have been at A World A’Fair in Dayton, which is an annual festival of histories, dance, items, and foods from 30+ different nations. It was a rich sampling of the beautiful, unique, and diverse experiment that is the United States. Yet, this richness in races, ethnicities, and cultures have an unfortunate and continued history of tension and conflict due to said diversity.

This is not unlike the experiment that is Christianity. Christianity is practiced in virtually every nation, by individuals of every race, ethnicity, nationality, and culture as well as every socio-economic status, gender identity, sexuality, political affiliation, etc.

Christianity is beautiful, unique, and diverse with billions of Christian practitioners, in millions of congregations, and in thousands of differing denominations. Christianity had, has, and unfortunately will continue to experience tensions and conflicts due to said diversity.

Yet, Christianity was almost not so rich.

The early Christian Church, according to Acts, was engulfed in a conflict regarding the question of who was and who was not able to be a Jesus follower.

Saul, becoming Paul, was knocked off his donkey a couple weeks ago with a literal ‘Come to Jesus’ moment. The once persecutor of Jesus followers had responded to the grace he received and now is a Jesus follower determined to share it with the non-Jewish, or as a Seminary professor would remind us each class the ‘uncircumcised, pork-eating Pagan’ Gentiles.

On the other side, we have Peter. Peter is the trusted disciple, the rock upon which the church is to be built and who was commissioned by Jesus (like all of us) to feed and tend to the sheep.

Peter disagreed with Paul, because the Jewish community had not been simply a ‘religious’ community but also an ethnic people and throughout the sacred history any non-Jew who desired to become Jewish had to completely renounce their old life and culture. Therefore, Peter held that those who wished to become a Jesus follower must become Jewish first, which meant circumcision and complete adherence to the Torah including the dietary restrictions.

But, in a strange vision, God breaks into Peter’s life with another ‘Come to Jesus’ moment. God essentially tells him, “How dare you call what I have made clean and worthy, unclean and unworthy”.

Peter immediately is sought by a few of this opposites… uncircumcised, pork-eating Pagan Gentiles questioning about Jesus and baptism. Peter agrees due to the revelation and bears witness to these people receiving the Holy Spirit.

But, it is the gospel that hits to the heart of it and brings it home.

Jesus tells his disciples to love one another not as themselves because of the loophole, but as Jesus first loved them and THAT is how people will know we are his sheep (hmmm, followers).

Jesus loved his closest disciples and all he encountered in the manner that we are called to do so in our baptismal waters with the help of the Holy Spirit, which is:

  • to proclaim Christ in word and deed,
  • to seek justice,
  • to act with compassion and mercy,
  • and to love and serve ALL people

despite race, ethnicity, nationality, culture, socio-economic status, gender identity, sexuality, political affiliation, etc.

Those boundaries we have and continue to allow to divide us in our traditions and for our comforts do not exist through the work of the Holy Spirit. It allows us to love ALL people, including the uncircumcised, pork-eating Pagan Gentiles which includes the majority of our ancestors.

May we embrace the Holy Spirit and proclaim as this shirt reads:
I {heart} uncircumcised, pork-eating Pagans!


Scriptures were Acts 11: 1-18 and John 13: 31-35
Originally preached on 19 May 2019.

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