“Unity in Diversity”
Sermon: “Unity in Diversity”
Rev. Glenn G. Grant
Kirkridge Presbyterian Church
Transcription from June 19, 2022
Sermon transcription is automatically generated. Please forgive any grammatical errors.
First of all, our gospel reading this morning is one of my favorites because it really exemplifies the humor that's in the Bible. And most people would look at that and say, what's funny about that? And you have to understand the situation that Jesus was in when this event happened. And it's in the wording.
What is your name? Legion. The 10th Roman Legion that was in charge of security for that area had the symbol on their flag of a Boar's head. And so, when the demoniac replies that the name is Legion and Jesus cast them out after they have begged to be allowed to go into the herd of swine, the boars, and then they go headlong over the cliff. It's exactly what the people of Israel wanted the Roman Legion to do.
So, in just that little incident, you get a glimpse of the political situation from that time period. You also get a glimpse of the fact that there are some things that some people would see humorous in the scriptures.
Now, I really want to focus today though on our passage from Galatians. because that passage is Paul talking to an audience who had been influenced by people that were saying that, even though they were Gentile, that they had to be circumcised before they could become part of the body of Christ. And Paul is saying, no, no, no, no, no, no. That's the old law. That's the old law. Once Christ came, that law is abolished. And so, Paul, who himself was remember was trained as a Pharisee is saying, even though I was trained as a lawyer, I'm telling you that law no longer applies. If you are accepting Jesus Christ, then that’s all it takes. That's all it takes. And from this point on, there is no Jew or Greek. There is no slave or free. There is no male or female. And he takes all of these things that have been used to divide people and says that doesn't exist anymore.
Now we know it does. We know all those things still exist, but they don't exist in Christ kingdom, and they shouldn't exist among Christians, and they shouldn't exist in the way we treat other people. And so it's interesting that this passage came up in lectionary on June 19th during pride month.
Now when I was growing up, I lived in a neighborhood that, well, there was one family that had as many kids in it as the rest of the neighborhood combined. And you would frequently hear terms or discussions around the neighborhood like, well, they're Catholic! And you would hear terms like the fish eaters club, you know, because at that point in time it was pre-Vatican two, and Catholics wouldn't eat meat on Friday. Some of us like having the fish once in a while. But I grew up not ever, ever, ever being allowed to say any of that. And it took a long time to find out why. And it really wasn't until much later in life, after having been raised with international missionaries in and out of our house and things of that sort, it took me a long time to really realize where the roots of that were. And the roots of that were in the Korean war.
And I knew that the roots were in the Korean war because my father was raised in a household where his siblings were all very prejudice. But my father was a Sergeant heading a squad, laying communications cable in Korea. And the squad had two south Koreans, two Hispanic Americans, two African Americans. And I'm trying to remember what the other nationality was that he said was in his squad. In other words, he was the only white, Anglo-Saxon person in this squad.
But we got somebody sitting over here that can tell you when you're laying communication cables, where are you? Depends. You're places you can get shot. Yeah. You're probably where you can get shot. They took out a couple of machine gun nests. Does that tell us anything? Uh, you're in putting your lives on the line. And if you are part of that squad, you have to trust everyone else in that squad the same way, and they have to trust you. And you know that their blood is the same color as yours. Now I'm bringing that up because in that particular squad, it didn't matter what the nationality was, what the color was, they saw each other as brothers in arms.
And when I found that out later in life, I realized why we were never allowed to even make a joke that was in any way prejudiced. My father would tell some of those jokes, but it would always be, well, there's this ethnic guy, there's this ethnic guy. That was the way he told those jokes. And some of the folks in this congregation had met my father. So you understand that.
But we come to this day and age in the church, and we're still fighting the same battles that should have been finished with emancipation proclamation. Were still being fought on June 19th, two and a half years. After that proclamation, we're still being fought in the 1950s in Korea when we've had our first integrated military units. Well, actually they started it, I think there was a couple in world war II, but we're still fighting it today.
And we're fighting it in different ways now in the church, we still fight whether we can have women in leadership roles. I don't know if anybody saw that Saddleback church and in Southern Baptist convention just about split over the fact that Saddleback. Rick Warren wanted to continue ordaining women and the Southern Baptist convention doesn't.
We're still fighting over that. We are still fighting over whether we should have integrated groups. We're still fighting over whether we should accept people that might have a slightly different sexual orientation than we do. Even though science is now bearing out the fact that we don't have male and female, there's all kinds of gradations in between.
But of course, we can't accept that because it's not who we are. And yet we have Paul telling the people of Galatia. All of these divisions, all of these divisions that are put up artificially between people have no place in the church. They have no place in the body of Christ. Those are all things that were in the past.
It doesn't matter whether you're circumcised or not. It doesn't matter whether you're Jew or Greek. And remember that as far as the Jews were concerned if you weren't Jew, you're Greek and that's because in that whole area, Greek was the language ever since Alexander the Great.
So, we have all of these divisions that Paul is saying don't matter anymore. And yet we're still trying to overcome them today. We can't even overcome the divisions within the Christian faith. We still have congregations where the pastors aren't allowed to work together with pastors of a different denomination, or in some cases, even with the pastor of the same denomination in the church that's across town.
We still have divisions in the church that keep us from working with, oh my gosh, … whoever.
Now there are examples where things go the other way. Y'all are lucky to live in a town where many of the pastors will work together regardless of the denomination. This is the first place I've ever lived, where the ELCA pastor and the Missouri synod Lutheran pastor not only get along personally but find ways of working together for the good of the community. Kim you're snickering, and you know exactly what I'm talking about.
Not only do they work together, but they're working together with a priest from the Catholic church! And oh, guess what folks they're working with me too! They let a Presbyterian in!
And we'll let anybody else in that wants to work with us for the good of the community. Because there is no Jew nor Greek. There is no slave or free. There is no male or female in the body of Christ. I don't know how many people, well, I could take a guess at how many people from our congregation were at Buckham Alley last night. But would there have been a problem if we were?
Ff you don't know what I'm talking about, there was a Juneteenth celebration at Buckham Alley in Flint last night. It's probably still going.
There was no distinction yesterday at the food distribution. None. If people drove up and filled out the card, they got food. Nobody asked how wealthy they were. Nobody asked where they live. Nobody asked about their nationality or their faith. If they were in need enough to get in the car and go to holy spirit Lutheran church and sit and wait in line, they got food.
And that's the way it is supposed to be in God's kingdom. We're not supposed to divide ourselves. We are supposed to accept whoever is part, whoever wants to be part of the faith. Anyone who accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and savior is part of us, period. No divisions, no divisions.
It doesn't matter the race, the creed, the sexual orientation, the language, the nationality, none of it matters.
I questioned the other day, Wednesday, we have a weekly gathering of the Presbyterian clergy from this region of the Presbytery. And we were at the Starbucks on at hill and Fenton, and it was a nice day. So, we decided to sit outside to have our cup of coffee. and we had to move aside this string of rainbow flags that the wind had taken down and were kind of tangled all around the chairs and everything else.
And I turned to one of the other pastors and I said, I wonder how it would be accepted for each one of us if we took part of that string and put it on our church sign? I wonder how that would be accepted? And one pastor says, well, um, it probably wouldn't be accepted too well at my church.
Isn't that a shame? Isn't it a shame that something that has become associated with freedom of conscious for some people would be a barrier to being part of a Christian congregation? When Jesus tells us to love one another, as God first loved us.
Those two statements don't go together. They don't go together. The freedom that we have in Christ is that unity we have through our diversity. It takes all kinds of people and all kinds of gifts of the spirit to make the church work. It takes all kinds. We need that diversity to be the church in this day and age.
As many of you were baptized in Christ. There's no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Amen.