Saturday, 21 May 2016

Unity in Diversity Through Love

The same God of the desert fathers, ascetics, philanthropists, saints and scholars, and the tireless caregivers for the poorest of the poor, indeed all who pursue the broad understandings of what is right and good is the same for God today. Does this mean that God is not immutable, that God keeps pace with us, is evolving as we do and will keep up with us even as we move from fantasy into the reality of exploring in space? It is an arrogance to think that God is keeping pace with us because who knows, indeed, if "us" is all there is?

There's a story told of respected astronomers at the Vatican Observatory who presented the church with evidence of another planet having the characteristics of our own, possibly to the extent of supporting sentient life. Two schools of thought emerged: the first advised the immediate dispatch of missionaries to bring the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ to those aliens, presumed to be very much like us.

The second school advised against an expedition.  Jesus came to us at the right time and place, they argued, and he will go to them when the time is appropriate, too. The astronomers allowed the debate to rage for a while before advising that the light from the new planet had taken so long to reach us that our cousin planet had actually ceased to exist several millions of years ago.

If God is immutable, however, can nothing ever change? We know that to be patently untrue. Theologians have a lot to say on these subjects and I suppose the most straightforward answer is that God and creation are always "one" no matter what part of creation we are looking at, or the era we are considering. The elegance of the wording of our passage from John leads us to an appreciation of the elegance of God's purpose for us. Creation is an evolving, changing, and developing phenomenon that attests to the dazzling finesse of our God and the exquisite perfection of the relationship that we share with God in Jesus Christ.

That this relationship could exclude anyone is beyond imagining. To those who might wonder if the majority always represents what must be right, to the exclusion of others, Jesus points out that the world, with its myriad expressions of diversity, is the object of God's love, and that all those who comprise the world. In the “there and then”, as well as in the “here and now”, we share equally in bathing in the radiance of that unity for which he prays.

These are thoughts to hold close in times of division, when deep misunderstandings keep faithful people of differing persuasions at arm's length, when honest beliefs stray from reality and when home-spun science collides with authentic research. It is easy to find ways to despise what we do not understand, to hate what does not resonate with our own experience, to fear what seems alien. We support these convictions with anecdotal evidence and with snippets of scripture.

 It is harder to seek ways to understand, to broaden our experience and to look with fresh eyes at those who differ from the majority in any number of possible ways. It is hard to accept that each and every one of us is a minority of one kind or another. Yet the eyes that are sometimes fresh to us are the experienced eyes of Jesus Christ, who calls us to unity greater than the sum of ourselves (a unity in diversity). It is a unity made both possible and perfect by the extravagant and abundant love of God.

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