Celebrating diversity and unity

October 29, 2020 | by Rev. Victoria Schlintz

Celebrating diversity and unity

 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends.  (Philippians 2:1-2, MSG)

4-yr-old Kaneen had been in the church for nearly a year when he stood in front of me one day during coffee time with his hand on his hip, demanding to know, “Pastor, why can’t you walk?  You’ve got legs!”  

I explained that though, indeed I have legs, sometimes legs don’t work to walk on. 

He looked down at his legs, tried them out a few steps, then looked back at me skeptically.  He must have finally decided I wasn’t ‘pulling his leg’ and said, “okay, you’re just different.”  And, “Can I have a ride, then?”  

“Well, I’ll make you a deal: I’ll give you a ride in my wheelchair if when we come back you’ll use your legs to go get us some lemonade.”  “Deal!”  We met fists on it.  As Kaneen climbed onto one knee and his little brother Nasier joined us on my other; we rode through the parking lot (this middle-aged other-abled female Caucasian pastor with two young African American/Hawaiian boys who can run like nobody’s business) each with a hand in the air, proclaiming to the world, “Jesus loves me!”  

Did these boys realize that celebrating unity in our diversity is God-pleasing and people-edifying?  Probably not.  But it was clear to me what we have in common trumped our differences.

We have a picture in our narthex that looks like Jesus from afar.  But when you get closer you see the hundreds of little pictures.  As one of the kids exclaimed with glee, noticing for the first time, “It’s us!”  The tiny pictures of us are arranged so the colors reflect an image of Jesus.  Below the image is our mission statement: to know Christ and make Christ known. 

Christ is in us and we are in Christ – the Body of Christ.  So, let’s celebrate our unity within diversity!  The early church knew diversity.  The “devout... from every nation under heaven” were in Jerusalem.  Among the converted at Pentecost, were those from different language groups, cultures, situations, needs, desires, and even styles of worship.  All those diverse people came together; the wind of the Holy Spirit set hearts afire, Peter preached an eloquent sermon, and 3000 added to their numbers and...suddenly they had all things in common.  Well...we know better.  We have Paul’s epistles. 

What would happen if your church had 3000 new members one day?  Chaos?  But the amazing, incredible, outlandish thing is that, despite the diversity, we can have unity.  One little ride in a wheelchair at a time, or whatever someone else’s “shoes” look like.  Like 4-yr-old Kaneen, we can ask the questions, dialogue, consider the answers, accept the differences, and celebrate what we have in common: Jesus loves–you and me.  Amen.

I recently pulled this up because of Nasier’s graduation and realized how fitting it is to our current social and spiritual situation too.Kaneen is now studying chemical engineering at UC Irvine, and Nasier graduated from high school this year, valedictorian, and is now studying political science at UCLA.

Rev. Victoria Schlintz is ordained elder in full connection and retired.
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