Monday, June 23, 2008
Red and Yellow, Black & White...
Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the nations of the earth; for all the earth belongs to me. -Exodus 19:5
One of the challenges and blessings of urban ministry is the issue of building a church that reflects the Kingdom of God not just the culture. In Christ we are not divided by color, economics, language, sex, age or nationality but in this world...we often are. You would think that living in a community that is racial diverse would mean that we are more racial accepting...but the truth is prejudice and bigotry exist in the hood as well as the suburbs. These challenges are real and the tensions that are present can affect the mission of God in a neighborhood like ours. People gravitate towards the known and often fear the unknown. The call of Christ includes being the representatives of a different kingdom that embraces, celebrates and loves all of God's children, red and yellow, black and white as the old song preaches. Jesus said there was a blessing for those who would walk as "Peacemakers" in their communities. But that road isn't always easy...a look at our national history reflects the trials and tribulations of the way.
But nonetheless we as Christians must advocate, work and pray for the manifestation of the Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven. And that means our churches should strive to reflect that reality in our outreach and growth as a body. That means at times we will come face to face with the powers and principalities that work to divide, sow fear, breed hate and chop up humanity into waring factions that speak against one another and spread ugly stereotypes with gossip and malicious slander. It's ugly to see and hear and its prevalent in our neighborhoods. Wether we want to accept that or not. In these last few years as we have had the privilege of serving the incoming refugees from Burma, I have witnessed this ugly blight in our town, in our hearts and in our neighborhood. I find myself being an "advocate" for those who are different, for those who are unlearned, for the child and for the adult who is struggling to fit into a strange land that has odd laws and customs. I've sat in the court room and watched the justice system wrestle with cultural issues that are new to Spokane. I've wrestled with employers that cheat workers, work them hard and pay them for only part of their labor. I've heard bigoted remarks and outright racist comments from ignorant and ugly people.
I've seen people ripped off, stolen from and pushed around because they didn't have the knowledge or the courage to seek help. I've watched doctors reject patients and been brushed aside by uppity professionals that seem to be more concerned about their time than care for patients. In the end it's a struggle that is very discouraging but only steels my resolve to serve the dream of God more and more in this little corner of the city.
When I see this picture from our Basket Ball camp last week, I am deeply thrilled by the multiple colors represented. Many people say they don't "see" color but the more I am around people of different racial backgrounds then me...the more I realize they do. Being the only brother in the room...can be an intimidating challenge no matter how many people say they dont notice skin color. My hope and prayer is that soon it will be so normal to walk into church and see all kinds of nationalities represented...just like heaven will be. This last weekend we had a big soccer game here at Underhill park, it was the Chin refugees against the Karen refugees, all from Burma. Three of us white dudes from church played on the Karen team and a couple of white people played on the Chin team as well. It was a awesome time to see all these cultures mixing together, playing and laughing and making memories together in East Central. I look back on that with pride and pleasure, knowing that God is letting us experience more and more of just what kind of life eternity will be like...right here, right now.