1 Corinthians 12:4-7
The sameness of God is harder for me to imagine than the differences of gifts, works, and manifestations of the Spirit. Steeped in years of diversity training, my default is that difference is good. I don’t need much convincing that individuals, given the same inputs, behave in individual ways. I’m programmed to notice and value difference.
I travel for work, and in airports, I play a game while waiting. I try to place everyone I see in a Venn diagram. I group people by ethnicity, economic class, relationship status, employment industry, fashion foolishness, food choices, happiness levels, etc. I look for overlaps and outliers. Then, I draw a great big circle around them, and I repeat this mantra: God made, loves, and redeems them all. And, I try really hard to feel equal affinity toward the groups and the individuals. I try to feel happy that Heaven might be like the airport. I haven’t succeeded yet.
I play a similar game in the cereal aisle. At my grocery store, the aisle begins with Captain Crunch, with Cheerios in the middle and Quaker Oats toward the end. There’s every indication of variety: packaging, core grain, shape, additives, nutritional boasts. But, all of it is more or less sugar. I’ve learned enough about nutrition to recognize the sameness.
I keep trying to learn enough about God to be able to see the sameness across the wide diversity between and within faithful people everywhere. In her book Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others, Barbara Brown Taylor recounts this analogy from Raimon Panikkar: The world’s great rivers don’t meet on earth; rather, the rivers meet in the sky where, transformed into vapor, they form clouds and rain down on the world.
The Spirit’s mystery is in the sameness, not the differences.
What would it take to be able to see the similarities that exist in everyone we meet before we noticed the differences?
God, you are at work in everyone. Help us join your work and set aside our differences. Amen.