Unity in Diversity

Readings:

Sermon

Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, from Jesus the Christ, the Son; and from the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

There was a video that captured my attention.

I want to begin by sharing this video with you.  First, let’s watch it together.  Then I will speak to it.  This is the DNA Journey.

So, this video is the product of a travel company called Momondo.  It came under scrutiny recently because someone “discovered” that the people who appear in the video are actors.  But that scrutiny seems only to have increased interest in the video.  Now it more than 5 million views 0nline.  Momondo has stated that they found the people for the video through casting agencies, but that all the participants had their DNA tested and that their reactions were spontaneous.[1]

The experiment was designed in partnership with AncestryDNA.  And its purpose is to “explore your diversity and find out how connected you are to the rest of the world.”[2]  In fact, it seems that as the world has been opened to us more and more every year over the last couple of decades, people have become more intolerant of difference, more resistant to accepting cultures differing from their own, and less open to welcoming the other.

The video shows us that there are commonalities between all people.  This collection of people seemingly has nothing in common, aside from a curiosity that brings them to participate in this experiment.  And then we discover that these strangers have the entire world in common.  And two of them have an even closer connection – A Kurdish woman and a Turkish man discover that they are cousins!

There is unity in the midst of this diversity.  How very typical of God’s doing, isn’t it.

Unity in diversity is a phrase that has been used internationally to mean similar things.  The essence of it is the concept of “unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation” that shifts focus from unity based on a mere tolerance of physical, cultural, linguistic, social, religious, political, ideological and/or psychological differences towards a more complex unity based on an understanding that difference enriches human interactions.

Put another way: We recognize that we are different and similar at the same time.  We share commonalities of appearance, background, thought and belief – but we are not identical.  We are not cookie cutter versions of each other. But, it is not enough to tolerate another’s differences for the sake of the ideology of remaining under one banner of unity.  It is in learning about another’s differences that we begin to best understand ourselves.  Those differences can only serve to enrich our communities, our lives, and our individual selves.

Do you know what the motto of this province is?  I love it because it ties directly to the understanding of unity in diversity: Multis e gentibus vires (from many peoples, strength).  The motto taps into the reality of the history of the province of Sasktachewan.  We are a collection of differences.  But from those different places we can all come together and give this place strength.

Don’t get me wrong: to live with the full understanding of Unity in diversity is a constant effort.

Even in the Church.

Especially in the Church.

Many theologians across denominational borders have argued that the doctrine of the Trinity – God as one being and three in person – is a model to the created world for the celebration of unity and diversity.  God’s one-ness calls us to unity, and God’s three-ness celebrates the rich and vibrant life that is in creation through our diversity.[3]

Humans don’t look alike.  I don’t look exactly like anyone in this room.  I don’t even look exactly like anyone in my family.  Even identical twins begin to differentiate from each other the minute they are born – many not looking so identical by the time they are full grown adults.

This diversity goes beyond appearance.  It is tied to everything that makes us individuals – how our guardians and parents raised us, how the community we live in shapes us, what we have spent time learning, our thoughts, our way of thinking and being in the world, our likes and dislikes, our prejudices, fears, and ignorance.  There are so many elements that make up who each of us is – it seems foolish to then think or hold to the idea that we ought to be united – in everything: we should act, think, speak as one.

Seriously, God doesn’t even do that!

The whole of Christianity has a tendency to reach out to the words of Jesus.  “I pray that they will be one…” [John 17:21a] we point to and proclaim that the fractures upon divisions and development of new branches of the church is likely not what Christ wanted.  Those words, however, quickly become the rallying cry and justification for those the others to reform, repent, turn back, and join us – where we are.  I think we forget the second part of that sentence:

“…just as you are in me and I am in you.” [John 17:21b]

Certainly, God is one being, and also three persons.  Each person has its being in the one God. They are one.

But.

Each person certainly has its own characteristics and behaviours, thoughts and actions.  Look at the baptism of Christ as a good example.  In the first chapter of Mark, Jesus is baptized by John and the heavens tore apart.  And the SPIRIT descended upon him like a dove.  And the FATHER spoke like an adoring parent.

And then that Spirit-dove immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness.  I think most like a gleeful child participating in the discipline of a sibling.

My point is that each person has distinct personality.

Every single healthy relationship through time has some element of compromise.  No one person or group gets their own way 100% of the time.  For us to be one as God is one is to recognize that we are also different.  For us to be in God and Christ is in the Father and as the Father is in Christ is to recognize that God dwells in us, and rather importantly, that same God dwells in those around us.

Regardless of how different we are from one another.  Each person has a distinct God-created personality.  And we are all created in God’s image.  God created humanity in God’s image.

God dwells.

In, through, over, under, around everyone.  Everything.

And it is good.

But it takes constant effort.

The Psalmist knew it, and captured the essence of that goodness in today’s psalm.  Living together is pleasing and an example of God’s abundant and everlasting life.

The apostle Paul builds on that sentiment: abundant and everlasting life is not without its hurdles.  Life has many facets, multiple parts, actions and reactions.  Life is not stagnant; life is constant change.  To live means permanent effort and adaptation.

I think this is why God created such diversity.  Because there is no way that any one thing could do all the work of life.  In fact, I believe that creation itself was a Trinitarian effort. All persons working as one being to bring life into being.

We all play a part in life.

It’s not the same part for every person.

This is true of all of creation.

This is true of the Church.

We do find our one-ness in Christ, and we seen it most clearly when we are able to gather together from our different walks of life.  We see God perfectly and most fully when we gather together the amazing variety and multitude that is humanity and share in love.

Just like in the DNA Journey video, when we gather with those who appear different from us, we get a glimpse of the things that are in fact common for all of us.

And we discover God.

Making Godself known to us.

Bringing God’s love into our midst.

Abundant and everlasting.

Fully present.

Perfect.

Let us pray:

Holy Trinity, we praise you for this day.  Thank you for providing us with the opportunity to come together, from all walks of life, and to share in worship of you together.  Gather us in, with joy and your love, that we would open our hearts and lives to the incredible diversity that you have created in the world.  Give us the power to choose love over hatred, however difficult it feels.  Empower us to discover the richness of you in each person around us, and help us to remember that you dwell in all others just as you dwell in us.  Amen.

Sermon Inspirations

  1. Shiao Chong. “A Biblical View of Diversity.”  3-D Christianity.
  2. Kayla Jardine. “Momondo’s new video ‘The DNA Journey’ has a beautiful message about diversity.”  Today News.
  3. Momondo.  LetsOpenOurWorld.  “momondo – The DNA Journey.”
  4. https://www.momondo.ca/letsopenourworld/dna

[1] Kayla Jardine.  “Momondo’s new video ‘The DNA Journey’ has a beautiful message about diversity.”  Today News.  http://www.today.com/news/momondo-s-new-video-dna-journey-beautiful-argument-diversity-t97901
[2] Taken from the Momondo website. https://www.momondo.ca/letsopenourworld/dna
[3] Shiao Chong.  “A Biblical View of Diversity.”  3-D Christianity.  https://3dchristianity.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/a-biblical-view-of-diversity/


This week’s image is a detail from the work entitled: “Unity Unity” created in 2003 by the artist Herman de Vries.  The work of art can be found here, and you can find more information about the artist here.  The work is shared as Fair Use.

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One thought on “Unity in Diversity

  1. Sorry I wasn’t able to attend and hear your message first hand. It was excellent food for thought in many areas and well done.
    You are good at this and getting better. May God give you the selfish luxury of seeing positive response to those who hear his word through you.

    Liked by 1 person

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