January 26, 2020
I’ve been kind of avoiding the news this week. I’m not sure if it is because I’m tired of all the impeachment talk or if I am trying to deny what’s happening and what it says: that we are a very divided country. There is both sadness and fear in that truth.
Yet, certainly the church is no stranger to divisions. Even St. Paul, in his first letter he wrote to the Church in Corinth, pleaded with them: “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…that there be no divisions among you.” They were making the same mistake that we continue to make today in the church: aligning ourselves with a particular fraction, a particular leader, rather than being united in Christ.
Divisions are always easy to find, even easier to create, and sometimes they just happen naturally. Kids will always see their parents as “not having a clue” and parents will always see their kids as “too young to know.” Relationships break and we have to learn to deal with step-children and dad’s new wife. Communities divide by ethnicity and social status, white-collar workers and blue-collar workers. Christians and Muslims occupy different corners of the boxing ring; Christians themselves are divided in to a variety of Protestant denominations and Catholics divide along the labels of liberal and conservative. Local boards and state legislatures and federal courts constantly find themselves caught in the battles of declaring who is right and who is wrong. So, we leaflet cars and wear buttons and fly our flags and tattoo our bodies (well, some of you might tattoo your bodies) and swear alliances just to prove it that we’re not like “them.”
But lest you get discouraged and want to throw in the towel over all this division, remember this: remember the land where Jesus choose to begin his ministry, the land of northern Galilee. It was fertile and productive land, wanted and conquered and occupied by many different races and people over the centuries. In doing so they left behind many lines of blood and many religions and many languages. It was no longer pure and clean and undefiled like the rest of Israel. Gentiles had moved in; the place was corrupted. It was here, Isaiah the prophet noted, in this land of darkness, God was glorified! It was here, in this land of darkness, that Jesus began to preach.
As Isaiah foretold, anguish took wing, darkness was dispelled. Where there was distress and gloom, light came. It was here in this land, not Jerusalem, that Christ began his ministry; here that he first proclaimed: the kingdom of God was at hand!
We will always find things that divide us. We will always have leaders of our church and community and nation that we don’t agree with. There will always be idiots and saints, depending upon your perspective. And in the midst of all our differences, in the midst of all our differing opinions, in the midst of all our truths that we hold self-evident and can’t figure out why others don’t, there is Christ. Christ will not be found when we create the perfect world with perfect rules that everyone agrees upon, with the perfect leaders that everyone loves. Christ doesn’t dwell there because if such a place ever existed, there would be no need of him.
Christ will be found where Christ has always been found: in places where diversity becomes a treasure instead of a detriment; where truth is not something we own but something we continue to discover; where respect is not rationed out to some and not others, but shared equally among all of creation. Christ will be found where tolerance is abundant and where every life and every life-story is found sacred. Because the only unity that ultimately matters is the unity we create in the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.