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God’s Inclusive Kingdom

September 30, 2017

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Three weeks after our initial trip up Old Fall River Road we made a second trip. The leaves were changing and Fall was definitely in the air. Instead of a doe, we met up with (from a safe distance) a Bull Elk and two Cows in the meadow by the Ranger cabin. One of the things that we enjoy about our “backyard” here in the Rockies is the diversity of neighbors! Below is the doe from three weeks prior.

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Of course, I could fill this particular blog simply with the pictures of our wild neighbors… they help to reflect the diversity that is our home. In our greater neighborhood I have encountered (safely and respectfully) neighbors like the Rocky Mountain Elk, Rocky Mountain Mule Deer, Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep, Moose, Black Bears. Bobcats, Mountain Lions (from a distance in the car), Marmots, Pika, Ptarmigan, Bald Eagles, various Hawks, Osprey… well, you get the picture. I have discovered that with proper respect for our wild animal neighbors, we can coexist quite peacefully and enjoy each others company.

So what does this have to do with World Communion Sunday and the culmination of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Season of Peace? I have learned a great deal about the diversity that is our mountain home in terms of wildlife. I have learned how to respect each of our wild neighbors and how to coexist with them. In a world where there is so much division and hatred (based upon fear to a great deal, I believe), I often find solace and refreshment with these neighbors. My spirit can be dark and depressed and yet some time spent in the wonder of God’s creation typically and quickly lifts my spirit.

On World Communion Sunday, the church celebrates the unity in Christ that our diverse body of  believers celebrates. Being a Christ-follower is not being a robot or someone cut out with some sort of divine cookie cutter.  It is celebrating our diversity as well as our unity in Christ. Unity is not conformity to a human created mold. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that “unity has never meant uniformity.”

Dr King also said, “Worship at its best is a social experience with people of all levels of life coming together to realize their oneness and unity under God. Whenever the church, consciously or unconsciously caters to one class it loses the spiritual force of the ‘whosoever will, let him come, doctrine’ and is in danger of becoming a little more than a social club with a thin veneer of religiosity.”

In Philippians 2:1-4, we read the following: “If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”

Do you hear that, dear reader? Look beyond ourselves! If we are no more than a social club with a thin veneer of religiosity as Dr King said… if we  “do acts of faith” from selfish ambition or conceit, we are far from the heart of Christ. Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah, God’s Anointed, humbled himself. In the words of Paul, he took on the role of a slave, and humbly served!

The Gospel reading from Matthew 21:23-32 tells a similar story. The Chief Priests and the Elders came up to Jesus and challenged the authority by which he taught. The lineage by which a Rabbi taught was incredibly important. Depending upon which Rabbi you sat under, you were either accepted or rejected. The religious elite were so concerned about the “proper lineage” that the missed the point of it all. They were so concerned about lineage and proper form that they missed out on the fact that John the Baptist and Jesus himself were teaching in God’s name!

Yet the prostitutes and tax-collectors (whom the religious elite looked down their nose at) got it! They heard the message and got it! Love God! Love Neighbor! Seek forgiveness and be restored! Out of that restoration, they were called to share the same good news with others!

Dear reader, on this World Communion Sunday we are called to return to that root. We are called to celebrate the diversity of God’s creation and the rainbow that is God’s children. When we come together and recognize (and celebrate) our unity and oneness under God as Dr King said, we are acting and living as God calls us to live in Christ. I have lived and served in many places around this wide world which God has created. I have met, worked with, worshiped with, wept with, and laughed with that rainbow of God’s beloved children.

I have been reading recently about two diverse voices in the Civil Rights movement. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X at first glance were two very divergent voices in that movement. Dr King wished for unity of whites and blacks as exemplified in his “I had a Dream” speech. Malcolm X was not in that same place early on in his own spiritual journey and in his work for Civil Rights. Yet, as I have read and studied, the two of them were moving closer to each other from very diverse backgrounds (a Baptist minister and a Muslim leader). If Malcolm X had not been assassinated in 1965 and Dr King in 1968, I wonder what further work the two men could have done in the movement.

I am going to close this blog with some words Dr King and Malcolm X… “When ‘I’ is replaced with ‘We’, even illness becomes wellness.” (Malcolm X)… “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

I believe in this world of division and hatred (based upon fear and ignorance) that God, through World Communion Sunday, is calling us to be a part of the “we” and the “bright day break of peace” and brotherhood/sisterhood. In all of that, may love have the final word!

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