May 25, 2023

Every Tribe and Every Nation

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.

— Revelation 7:9

Almost every Sunday I look around our worship service and think, “I love this so much!” Certainly, there are many things I love about our faith congregation, but the thing that strikes me every single time is the beautiful diversity around me.

I often sit by someone I don’t know, introduce myself, and discover the person next to me has only recently arrived from a remote area of India or a bustling city in Brazil. They might be a grad student from Sierra Leone, or a former Puerto Rican pop star, or an artist who recently fled Ukraine. Each of these beautiful people carries a unique story of joy and sorrow, success and hardship, fear and courage.

To me, this is a picture of Heaven—full of diverse colors and vibrant life. Certainly, we have many differences in background, experience, and perspective, but one thing binds us together. We all share in the love of our heavenly Father. We participate in worshipping God together, in unity.

These are my people, my community, my family. You see, Heaven isn’t going to be filled with people just like me (Thank goodness!), and I have the opportunity to get to know some of these amazing saints right now. What a gift!

Many years ago, our family had the opportunity to visit Morocco. During the trip, we found ourselves in a rug bazaar, seated on colorful cushions, consuming copious amounts of steaming mint tea. I was captivated by the abundance of varied colors and designs in the rugs laid out before us. I see God’s kingdom this way. Intricately woven patterns of different fibers and infinite hues creating a breathtaking grand design. You and I are some of the yarn making up that design.

From an earthly perspective we may wonder what an elderly widow in a Lutheran church in rural Iowa could possibly have in common with a young man in a black Pentecostal church in Queens. Or what could be similar between an Irish Catholic octogenarian in Galway and a 30-something mom attending a non-denominational church in suburban Houston?

I would suggest they have boundless commonality. They share the same identity, the same spiritual DNA. They are God’s beloved. They are each an essential part of the Body of Christ—precious yarn for God’s magnificent design. And yet, they may not realize that important truth.

In John 17, Jesus prays that we all would be one just as he and the Father are one. This prayer is God’s heart for his body. It’s not just a nice idea; it matters in an eternal sense.

God wants to be fully known, but how can he be fully known when some parts of his body are blind to other parts of the body? How can his body function when some parts actively reject other parts? How can God be fully manifest in such a broken body?

John 13:35 says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” It doesn’t say they will know we are his disciples by our skirmishes and schisms. Sadly, that is what much of the world sees.

Friends, we need to be captivatingly different than the world, not falling prey to spirits of division and strife. We need to be carriers of love and reconciliation. That is why we were created.

Picture the scene described in Revelation 7—a great multitude from every tribe and every nation joined together in worship, experiencing a spirit of unity that can only come from love. This is our hope and our destiny, but we can begin to experience it now. Jesus wasn’t just praying for some unknown people. He was praying for us. His heart is for us to be one.

I invite you to pray with me:

Father, help us learn to see each other’s belovedness even as we navigate a world that seeks to divide.

Jesus, may we seek to live as one with each other and with you, just as you prayed.

Holy Spirit, empower us to love one another, embracing each other as true sisters and brothers.

Holy Trinity, may we know what it means to live in communion with you, consumed within the great dance of love.

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