Acts 17:22-28 – 22 Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely spiritual you are in every way. 23 For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26 From one ancestor he made all peoples to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God and perhaps fumble about for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,
‘For we, too, are his offspring.’
Galatians 3:28 – “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Colossians 1:16-17 – “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
Revelation 7:9-10 – “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'”
As I write this sermon, I just finished a day at Ohio State University’s student and family orientation. (Go Buckeyes!)
It’s fitting to be speaking on diversity this week as I was in the middle of about 500 students and families that were from all walks of life, different ethnicities, and so much amazing energy.
Later, I would eat dinner at a brewery just a few blocks from where we are staying, and again, as I sat there in their courtyard, people watching as my dad used to do, I was amazing at the brewery workers and clientele…black, white, Asian, Hispanic…preppy folks, tattooed folks, beards, long hair, crew cuts…I even noticed some Christian t-shirts!
Then, when you look at our zip code, where our church is located, the diversity is amazing, 57% white, 33% black, 8% other…and, the black and other is increasing…especially the other as we look at our Nepali friends moving in to the neighborhood.
Friends, our church resides in a very diverse neighborhood, in an incredibly diverse world…and I think that makes God’s heart sing. The variety of peoples, not only ethnically, but with tastes, opinions, beliefs, talents, etc. makes like so interesting.
God must have an amazing imagination!!!
I was pleasantly amazed at first when our church’s elemental leadership team picked “diversity” as one of its 5 core values. But, it makes sense. We all know that it’s an aspiration of our church to be community engaged…and, even though we may not think much about it, deep down, we want to be diverse.
Our passages this morning speak to diversity and staying curious. Paul is walking around a foreign city. He’s Jewish and is in Athens, Greece. It’s a foreign place to him…yet, he doesn’t put it down, instead he listens, he notices, and he sees and hears God in the marketplace, the gathering place, of Athens.
As we walk in this neighborhood, engage it in different ways, in all of its diversity, we cannot judge it, we cannot condemn it…and I hope that it doesn’t scare us…I know different can be hard for some of us oftentimes….especially in a constantly changing world…but if we want growth in our lives and in the lives of others, we have to listen and see where God is moving and get behind where the Spirit leads us…actually loves us towards…this will change us, just like it changed Paul.
Paul, and the other disciples, could have just stayed with “their” people, with what they were comfortable with…but God had others plans. God wanted them to see God’s self in the gentiles, the foreigners, the folks that didn’t look, believe, or act like them.
Our story with Paul also says that our very being is wrapped up in God. A God that is diverse and beautiful.
Yet, we are also one in our diversity. Friends, we have to remember Paul’s other words as well. God is in all and lives through all…ALL. We cannot tolerate those systems that are set up to keep us apart…we cannot accept patriarchal misogyny anymore, we cannot tolerate racism, sexism, or elitism….we have to model what Paul is telling us…there is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female, we are all one. There is no “other”, it is only “we”.
There will be a day in the next few years where this building will be full of people…diverse people, maybe not as much on a Sunday morning, but throughout the week. Not just an event like the Ukrainian food festival, but most days…I see our hallways and rooms filled with activity and people that reflect the make up of our community in our future in some form. In the meantime, before that happens, we have to listen and we have to ask questions. We are moving in that direction as we speak…in big and small ways.
Learn to embrace diversity, to look at people and history in a way that reflects curiosity and listening…you’ll be surprised at how much you will grow…and love…and become more like the amazing, diverse, and loving body of Christ.