Tuesday, January 31, 2017

From My Missionary Days

This week's gospel reading has to do with being salt and light, and for some reason, it makes me think back to my days as a missionary in Japan.  I suppose when I considered what in God's name I was doing over in Japan being a missionary, I more often thought of it that way:  I may not be making great big visible waves (I thought), but I was being salt and light by being God's person in Japan.

But when I start thinking back to those days so long ago, I also remember a particular passage of scripture.  It was the scripture verse that I used for one of the only two sermons I preached in Japan.  It was a scripture verse from Ephesians 2, about how Jesus has broken down the walls that separate us, and made us into one people.

Of course, the author of the letter to the Ephesians is referencing two particular groups:  Jews and Gentiles.  They were divided by culture and religion.  The Gentiles were regarded as far away from God.  There was a 'dividing wall of hostility' between them.  But, not any more.  Jesus reconciled them to one another on the cross.

Think about that.  Jesus reconciled them not just to himself, but to one another.

So, I'm thinking about dividing walls of hostility right now.  And not just that great big long expensive one that the President wants to build on the southern border.  And actually, not even primarily that one.  I am thinking about all of the other dividing walls of hostility that there are, even though Jesus says that through his cross, they don't exist.

I recently saw a message on social media about how terrible it is to care more about refugees than it is about homeless veterans.  And I thought:  who told us we had to choose?  Someone is erecting a dividing wall of hostility, and to what end?  There is the wall between the women who marched and the women who did not think it was necessary to march.  There are walls between immigrant and native, documented and undocumented, and Christian and Christian.

I was not born yesterday.  There are real differences between us.  There are things that each of us are right about, and wrong about.  But you know what?  There are also fake differences between us.  We really are all in the same boat.  We all bleed, we all fall down, we're all going to die.  We are also all beloved by God, for some strange reason.

Another person wrote on a social media post that he is not going to care about refugees because, "their lives are not more important than mine."  All right.  But their lives are not LESS important than mine, either.

I am a person of privilege.  I have never been a refugee.  I have never had to flee my home.  In fact, for most of my life, I have fit in with my surroundings pretty well.  But for a few years I at least knew what it felt like to be a stranger, a foreigner whose tongue tripped over the new words she was learning, who often got lost and had to rely on the kindness of strangers, who stuck out where-ever she went.

And I tell you what:  that experience made me cling to the cross, and find my hope in the demolition of those dividing walls.  For in all of our beautiful diversity, and for all that we refuse to see it or believe it, it is still true that we are no longer strangers or sojourners, but we are children of God, with Christ himself the cornerstone.

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