Observing Lent – Week Five
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As lent is coming to a close and we are coming upon Holy Week, we still have one issue of brokenness to deal with, and that is the brokenness of God’s family. By way of reminder, let’s first look at where we have been.
Week Two: Journey into the Brokenness of Hunger
Week Three: Journey into the Brokenness of Homelessness
Week Four: Journey into the Brokenness of Creation
Week Five: Journey into the Brokenness of God’s Family
Holy Week: Journey from Palm Sunday to the Cross.
JOURNEY INTO THE BROKENNESS OF GOD’S FAMILY
Christine Sine in her Lenten Guide entitled A Journey into Wholeness starts off this week with a quote by Jin S Kim saying, “Americans by and large work together, shop together, and play together, but they do not worship together. If we are at our core spiritual, then the fact that we seem unable and unwilling to relate to one another elbow-to-elbow in the pews of the local congregation reveals how fragile the integrity of the church is.”
Then Christine reminds us of the thought often quoted, that Sunday morning is the most segregated time in the country. “We are segregated by race, age, economic class, denominational affiliation, and theological perspective. We gravitate towards those who think and worship in the same way we do. Often, instead of living together in unity and love, we are separated by prejudice and intolerance.”
Yet as we read the scripture we realize that the purpose of God through history is to build inclusive communities in which God himself is the center. When we look to God’s future we see people from every tribe, tongue and nation worshiping together. It seems like we need some schooling in what it means to really accept one another. If we are going to move towards God’s future we need to start practicing acceptance in the present. We need to put away our prejudices and be loving.
For God’s community is a community where it doesn’t matter whether you are black or white, male or female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free, nice or barbaric, His community is an inclusive community where people from every tribe and tongue and nation are a part. And when we have communities of faith that represent the diversity of our neighborhoods, we become a sign and foretaste of God’s coming kingdom.
Martin Luther King Jr. understood this. He dreamed of a day when racial prejudice would be destroyed. He devoted his life to confronting racism in the United States. He mobilized thousands of white and black Americans to join in nonviolent civil disobedience of laws that were unjust. And because Martin Luther King Jr. pursued his dream, our society was changed. We have come quite a ways, but we still have ways to go. I believe that the only hope for laying aside prejudices and loving everyone can only happen in this new community, where Jesus is the center. We have to learn to accept one another, just like Christ has accepted us.
Romans 15:7 says, “So accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified.” Did you know every community thinks it is friendly, but usually what they mean is that they are friendly to each other, to people they like, or to people who are like them. That is not acceptance, much less community. Real acceptance involves looking at people, differences and all, and accepting them for who they are and how God made them. It doesn’t matter if they are white or black, male or female, rich or poor, from Mexico City or Beijing. We are called to accept one another.
I heard a story about a little boy that just models this idea of acceptance for me. This little boy went shopping for a dog. He wanted his own puppy. He went into the pet store, he went straight to the owner, he asked how much the dogs were.
The owner said, “Well, kid, maybe on the cheap end maybe 30 to 40 bucks, if your talking pure bread, we could get into the hundreds, what do you have in mind?”
The kid said, “Well, I’ll tell ya. He pulled out his money, and he laid it out on the counter, and it was two dollars and thirty-seven cents. He said, that’s all I have. I’ve been saving for months, every penny I have.” He thought it was a fortune.
Well the owner wasn’t a bad guy, so he took him out back and said, “Hey, listen, we may not be able to work out a deal today, I can maybe talk to your parents later, but let me just take you back here and take a look.”
So he took him back there to this one dog who had just recently had a litter of babies and he showed him all these little puppies walking around and the kid was looking at them, and he kept looking at one in particular, and if you know anything about dogs, he was the runt of the litter, there is always the runt of the litter. Smallest one.
He asked the owner about that little dog, and he said, “What’s wrong with that dog? Because he wasn’t just a runt, but he walked with a limp.”
The owner said, “Well, to be honest, that dog was born without a hip socket.”
That little boy said, “That’s the one I want, that’s the one I want.”
And the guy said, “Kid I can’t give you that dog, I can’t sell you that thing, I’m going to have to probably put that dog to sleep. I can’t.. that dog’s just not worth the money, I mean, wait until you can get a healthy dog.”
And when the owner said that, the little boy just looked up at him and just tears just burst into his eyes, and he looked at the owner and said, “Mr. you take my money, and you give me that dog, because THAT DOG is worth as much as any other animal in this store. You take my money.”
The guy just kind of stepped back and said, “Okay, okay.” And he took the kids money, and gave him this little puppy and the little boy walked out of the store, and only then, did he realize that the boy was cripple, and had an artificial leg himself.