Church is a Jungle (Core Value 7)

Core Value 7    Colossians 3:1-17         Church is a Jungle June 13, 2010

We are blind.

We have blinded ourselves to the ways that we have been shaped by history.

With our eyes wide shut we daily run to embrace the offspring of our American story.  Convenience.  Efficiency.  The Pursuit of happiness.

We don’t pause for one second to ask ourselves what these cost-or what value they really have.

It’s in our DNA, so to speak.  It’s part of who we are.

We are children of history though we tell ourselves otherwise.

We prefer the story that we are self-made and independent.  But in reality we are not.

In reality we are children of progress.

Science is our mother and Technology is our father.

We’ve defeated Polio.  We’re done with Malaria (at least in this country).

People who don’t have legs can walk!  People who can’t speak can have a machine do it for them!

We’ve learned to read and to write, to travel the globe in mere hours to anywhere.

We’ve conquered distance, language, and some would say even race as barriers to understanding each other and the world we live in.

Why then, is diversity still such a big deal?

If I really wanted to, I could fly just about anywhere in the world.  I could leave tomorrow and be there in just a matter of hours.

A favorite story I heard growing up was of an old farmer from my community in Iowa who flew to Chicago one time…just to eat lunch…and then flew back home.  He traveled alone and didn’t meet anyone there…he just wanted to ride in an airplane and see a big city.

That’s our reality. Obstacles that kept my grandparents pretty much in the same area for most of their lives—they’re all but gone today.  It might be expensive, but if you can raise enough money today you can pretty much be guaranteed that you can see whoever you want, whenever you want…maybe with the exception of a few key government leaders around the world.

So with all that power at our disposal…why is diversity still such an important issue?

It’s never been easier for God’s people to be united—to talk to each othe in real-time…to see each other face to face.

There have never been fewer obstacles for God’s people to unite in this world.

So again I have to ask—why does this word ‘diversity’ still hold such importance?  Why aren’t we doing it?  Or are we?

The core value that we’re looking at this morning says “We appreciate and seek diversity in our group.  Differences in age, race, culture, education and vocation help us understand the many gifts given by God.  We believe this diversity serves as a source of strength.”

So what’s it mean to appreciate and seek diversity in a place like Holmes County?

Does it mean we pay attention to what we have in common?

Does it mean we ignore each other’s differences?

Does it mean that we all have to agree about everything—or that we have to shut up to keep the peace?

I’m thankful for the differences that are here; differences in age, race, culture, education and vocation.  We can be thankful for the many gifts that are here—the different gifts that God has given to each person in this room.  They compliment each other, they feed off of each other…for I believe God equips his church to carry out His will everywhere the church is.

We can celebrate our diversity this morning, because there is much to celebrate.

But diversity, like peace…is never a destination.

It’s never something that can be ‘achieved’.  You can have more diversity, and you can have less diversity…but that’s all!

So then why did I start this sermon by talking about us being blind?

Why did I bring up technology, or science, or the whole notion of ‘progress’?

It’s because I think those things are behind our current state.  And I think our current state is that we’re missing the point.

The scripture I’ve chosen for this morning says

If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

We are no longer our own― through the work of Christ we belong to God and therefore our allegiance is in a different place than it once was―so we seek the things that are above; not the things that are here below.  We have been hidden with Christ in God and therefore when Christ is revealed, we will also be revealed.

It’s not that we’re caught in some cosmic game of hide-and-seek.  It’s that as we share our lives with other people…at the point where Christ is revealed either to them or through them―it’s at that point that we are found!

It shouldn’t matter who’s black and who’s white and what percentage are a certain age.  It shouldn’t matter how many doctors attend our church compared to how many farmers or teachers or janitors.

What matters will be only that we are found in the revealing of Christ.

Diversity is too often talked about as something that can be achieved.  My friends and I used to joke about the ‘token black guy or asian girl’ on the pictures that my college used to take for publicity.

And really, I shouldn’t make fun because it’s honorable what they’re trying to do…like I said, diversity is important to pay attention to.

But it’s only as important as it is indicative of a deeper reality―a reality where we’re being drawn closer to Christ; a reality where we’re setting our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth.

For if we are dead to ourselves and alive in Christ, then Christ is all that should matter!

And please keep in mind that when I say Christ is all that should matter, I’m not suggesting we withdraw from pursuing more diversity wherever and whenever we can.

What I am suggesting is that to hide in Christ is to be drawn along with people who are very different than you.

After all, both a Tax Collector and a Zealot―two people who would have despised each other― two people who couldn’t have been more different…both of them followed Jesus as one of the inner circle.

It wasn’t because they were seeking diversity.

It was because they were following Christ.

And get this―Christ doesn’t care about efficiency.

That could be a sermon in itself for us Mennonites, eh?

Christ doesn’t care about efficiency, or progress, or our scientific method.

Those are all part of the blindness I was talking about.

They might be good things―They’ve helped us cure sickness and improve our landscapes and experience the world in ways that otherwise would be impossible.

But they don’t really help with the kind of diversity I think God has in mind.

See, what Christ cares about is that we clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

What Christ cares about is that we Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint… forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you!

What Christ cares about is that we bind ourselves together in perfect harmony, clothed in love and letting the peace of Christ rule in our hearts as one body with thankful spirits.

I’ve been taught my whole life that the opposite of diversity is discrimination.

But I was thinking about farming this week.  In particular I was thinking about farmers who grow corn.

See, a good farmer knows that in order to make money, they need to be efficient with how they use their land.

So they need to discriminate.  Efficiency and discrimination go hand in hand.

A farmer works very hard at making his or her field a discriminating place.  They invest time and money and equipment.  They’ll apply different kinds of spray at different times of the season to make sure it’s only corn that’s growing.

In that cornfield, every other kind of plant is discriminated against.

The cornfield by its nature is hostile to the tomato.  Efficiency demands it.

The conditions in the corn field are suitable for corn and corn only.

But if I can be so bold, in the beginning God did not create a field of corn.  He created a garden…Complete with gardeners.

I’m afraid that the church that we love is too much like a field of corn!

By it’s nature it is inhospitable at best and downright hostile at worst to anything that is not Christian.

No matter how much diversity we aim for, we will miss the point until we see that fact.

I fear we’ve created a Christian cornfield instead of a garden.

What God planted in the beginning was a garden full of life―a jungle teeming with diverse people and experiences and plants bearing all manner of fruit.

Now, this core value continues by saying

God’s invitation is extended to all, and we wish to honor and reflect that diverse range of invitation.  We seek to be a haven for those who are seekers or who feel spiritually disenfranchised.”

And I can speak from experience when I say that I know this church takes this calling seriously.

It’s part of who we are.

But can we remember it is not diversity that we seek—but rather Christ?

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