Like many parents, Chad and I find ourselves daily wading through conversations with our daughter that are tough to have with another adult, yet alone a 5-year-old. Some days it’s processing grief over how the virus has left nothing unchanged in our lives; some days it’s about matters of difference and diversity; some days it’s about why another neighbor finds themselves sleeping on the sidewalk or in the church parking lot. We’re exhausted, but what we hope we are instilling through these conversations is a sense of neighborliness that will foster love-driven actions both today and tomorrow.
This Sunday’s opening hymn, “In Christ There Is No East or West,” compels the morning’s worshipers toward a vision of love clothed in fellowship and unity. While singing, it’s hard not to hear the apostle Paul’s words found in Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Some have described this as a unity hymn, and like me, you may struggle with that word, unity. What does unity even mean in a society steeped in such deep divide and polarization? How do we promote unity when believing the best in one another and agreeing to disagree are no longer valued rules of engagement?
I guess we begin with what we do know: being unified does not deny the beauty of diversity, nor is it a call to uniformity. Instead it’s a call to celebrate the existence of our diversity, while not allowing our differences to divide us. Imam Omar Suleiman wrote a fantastic piece this week for Religion News Service that highlighted this very point in relation to the work of interfaith collaboration. He says, “We can talk openly and honestly with one another without shying away from our disagreements. And we can work, proudly anchored in our different faith traditions, with similar goals through recognition of our full shared humanity.”
So this Sunday morning as you prepare to worship, may our spirits be prepared for the work of unity — bringing us closer to recognizing the shared humanity in each other and our neighbors. And may that unity of love serve as an example to the children who look to us each and every day as they learn how to navigate these challenging days.