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WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, MAY 24, 2021

Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verses are portions of Acts 2 where the Bible tells of these events on the first Pentecost Day: 

 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”….. Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd:….21 “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

THE ONLY DIVERSITY THAT LASTS!

Churches all around the world sing a hymn titled, “Blest Be the Tie that Binds,” by John Fawcett. The first two stanzas go like this:

Verse 1 - Blest be the tie that binds, Our hearts in Christian love;

  The fellowship of kindred minds, Is like to that above.

Verse 2 - Before our Father’s throne, We pour our ardent prayers;

   Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, Our comforts, and our cares.[1]

It’s a beautiful song about the power of unity. The only problem today is that unity and diversity are being pitted against each other. We’re told over and over again that there are no over-arching narratives, there are no universal truths, and that diversity is somehow the “solution,” or at least a better representation of reality. Hmmm. Now I appreciate a perspective that points out how often we human beings tend to selfishly attend only to our own interests and groups, and then apply the beauty of “unity” only to those whom we like or care about. But it doesn’t follow that raw diversity is any better of a solution. Unity versus diversity is not the vision of the Scriptures or, for that matter, any fair-minded, honorable person; instead, the notion of “unity and diversity” is. “Either/Or?” No! In Christ, it’s “Both/And!” This text from Acts revolves around whether or not there are universals that can bind us all together, universals bigger than ethnicity, language, or country. A follow up question then goes further and seeks to know where such unity can be found.

The Day of Pentecost described in Acts 2 gives a biblical response to these issues. There is only one thing that unifies us beyond our tribal, familial, or cultural associations, and that one thing is the person and work of Jesus Christ for all. There is only one message that can call all of us fully back to our own humanity and our own enduring sense of community. That is the message of repentance and forgiveness in Jesus’ name lived out in grace-filled lives for the sake of others. No government program can do this. No benevolent human ideology can accomplish this. No technology can breach the language/communication barrier that originates not merely in different vocables, but in our fallen hearts and corrupted minds. (Isn’t it interesting that Facebook, which was supposed to create and maintain unity and community across its digital platform, is now being used to target, humiliate, and even control people? Is that real community? I think not.)

What’s amazing about the Pentecost event is that the message of Jesus Christ is able to reach all of us within our own unique cultural and familial settings, and still bind us together as one. When each of our identities is firmly rooted in God’s creative, redemptive reality in Jesus, then we can look at the uniqueness of each other with joy, even as we celebrate the “tie that binds.” Unity and diversity, when properly held together, are always a byproduct of God’s overarching message that calls us back to Himself and to each other. In fact, it’s the only unifying diversity that lasts.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, we need to repent of the notion that there are no unifying messages for us, as well as of our selfish misuse of Your unifying message in ways that cause division. As on that first Pentecost Day, give us the overwhelming joy of being united together as Your children by grace through faith. Then empower us by Your Holy Spirit to proclaim the unique message of Jesus Christ which binds us all as one and move us to be useful in Your hands for the sake of the God-given diversity that lasts forever.  AMEN.

 

[1] Public domain; see, for example, Lutheran Service Book, #649.

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