23 February 2018
It's a part of our history that those who are different are a threat to us. Different languages, different skin colour, different culture, different ways of thinking, different clothing style, different religion, different accent - there is something about us that just doesn't like differences. That can quickly give rise to passions that lead to fighting and wars, even where people seem to have lived peaceably side by side for many years.
In the Church it has led to schism and separation as “ I am right therefore you are wrong” leads to righteous indignation and even hatred.
When two brothers decided to kill and maim people at the Boston marathon, one of the consequences of their actions is that many more Muslims, will face and are already facing more discrimination, more derogatory words more hatred than a month ago. And, of course, that creates more anger and more hatred on their side. The differences are enhanced at the expense of all the things held in common.
There's a difference, between being one, because we're the same, without difference, and being one, because we've embraced our differences, and loved one another in the midst of them or even because of them.
This story comes from an Australian colleague, Andrew Prior, who told of a shared meal between the Korean and the European congregations who share the same church property. After a wonderful lunch, it began to come unstuck over the dishes. The relationship, as he heard the story, was lucky to survive!
“Think about the way they wash dishes in water-short Australia. From a Korean perspective, they slurry the dishes around in a weak, tepid soup. Then they wipe the contamination into all the cracks in the crockery with wet, unhygienic tea towels which they often don't even take home and wash!-well, not for a week or two, anyway.
The Koreans in that church kitchen were revolted, disgusted, and unsurprisingly, outraged and deeply insulted, to realize they had been eating off this filthy crockery and cutlery for months.
It was a big kitchen, apparently. There were two washing up points. At the other sink, the Koreans were washing the dishes properly. Burning hot running water, no plug in the sink, dishes draining, and tea towels retired as soon as they were moderately damp.
The others were outraged and furious at the waste of water and electricity. Who did these newcomers think they were?
We know that Jesus said, 'By this everyone will know that you are my disciples: if you have love for one another.' (John 13:31-35). True Australians, of course, know that proper love -the true love from God -does not waste water, and that if the water is even three degrees hotter than air temperature, it's good enough for washing dishes. Just scrub harder…... “
So which people who think differently are obviously wrong?
How do we embrace our differences? How do we love our neighbour - whether Christian and others?
In Acts 11:1-18 is the story of Peter being confronted by differences. First he was challenged about what he ate – he was a good Jew who didn’t touch certain foods. Then he was sent to a Gentile, a Roman centurion and Peter was not permitted by religious law to enter his house. A non-Jew who did not qualify for the good news, Peter was bringing, at least not without taking on all the Jewish customs first…. But Peter found that God had gone before him and God was with these people whom he had been taught to avoid and it was not up to him who was in and who was out....
“The news travelled fast and in no time the leaders and friends back in Jerusalem heard about it - that the non-Jewish "outsiders" were now "in." When Peter got back to Jerusalem, some of his old associates, concerned about circumcision, called him on the carpet. "What do you think you're doing rubbing shoulders with that crowd, eating what is prohibited and ruining our good name?"[The Message]
Peter retold that story three times, to defend his actions, according to Acts. It involved changes not just in those he was sent to but in him and in the rest of that church. Changes that touched the way they ate and related to others, basic daily actions. It was challenging and scary as the early church began to see people as being one in Jesus and embracing difference.
May God bless you with peace
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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