When our house was full of children, three boisterous and beautiful girls, there was often a lot of noise and squawking about meals. No one child would agree with the other about what they wanted to have for a meal on any given day. Although there were many things they enjoyed in common, they often chose to dislike a dish on a day when one of the other sisters wanted that particular dish. In truth, no matter how much contention there was over a given meal, I would cook what I had planned and any child could make a sandwich for themselves if they weren't able to stomach the menu of the day. Life in families finds us among very closely related people with very different ideas and opinions about what our common meals and lives should be. Life in the church also finds us among people, closely related by baptism, who hold various different ideas and opinions about our common life. Although to some, this might seem like the house divided which Jesus talks about, it is instead the stunningly beautiful and challenging diversity of the kingdom that God created for us to dwell in.
If we serve God together, we dwell in a unified house,and, despite the complexity of our common life and the diversities of expressions among us, we are not divided. Some people, in putting forth their arguments in church will claim that the other side is of the devil, or not a follower of Christ. A difference of opinion, theological or otherwise, does not remove us from the family. God, the Creator of the universe and each and every one of us, loves us in our diversity, not in spite of it. And so, we too might want to love each other in our differences and not reject one other for those same differences. It is the way of Christ, who reached out and touched the untouchables, made relationships with those judged evil and sinful, and took meals with the outcasts. Jesus drew the kingdom, the household, the family to himself, so that we might see the loving hand of God in our midst.
After spending the weekend at the annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, Bishop Carol's words seem very apropos. The diocese is about a quarter of the size it was a year ago, before a large portion chose to leave the Episcopal Church because they could not tolerate the kind of "stunningly beautiful and challenging diversity" that we strive to embrace. It is not easy to live with differences, and it wasn't even easy this weekend. But it is worth the struggle. I saw folks this weekend embrace a life of celebrating the many different ways in which we are each created in the image of God. Thanks be to God for such diversity.