For my work, I often travel to the New York/New Jersey area, with the non-stop United flight from Omaha to Newark, an all too frequent experience. Inevitably, there are other business travelers on the flight, a few of which are always Orthodox Jewish men. These gentlemen wear black suits and boots, a skull cap called a yarmulke and sometimes a fur hat called a shtreimel. They also don full beards and sidelocks called payot. Like Christianity, Judaism has a series of denominations with different traditions and faith interpretations.
I also have good friends and work with many professionals of Indian descent, the vast majority of which practice Hinduism or Sikhism. The Sikh men traditionally have full beards and wear a turban (a dastār). Some of my Hindu co-workers had arranged marriages and others did not. Some are strict vegetarians, while others eat meat, but never beef, out of Hindu respect for the cow.
We live in a diverse world, full of God’s infinite creativity and breadth. I personally know very little about the customs and belief systems of these travel companions and colleagues, but I do know that we share the gift of life as humans and the spiritual desire to reach a better place. Today’s verse reinforces our commonality and peace with Christ:
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands) — remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:11-13 (NIV)
At Southwood, while our Lutheran congregation of south Lincolnites admittedly does not resemble the international terminal at Newark Liberty Airport, we have diversity of thought, of age, of background, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, etc. In the hymn by Marty Haugen, we often sing the lyrics “All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.”
Questions for Reflection:
- Have you ever been to a place where you were “different” than everybody else? How did you feel and how did you act?
- Have you gone out of your way to welcome visitors or people new to an environment?
Thank You, Jesus, for the gifts of open mindedness, free will and diversity. We are all made in Your image, with a one-of-a-kind blueprint, with our own special talents and makeup. We are all different, but like brothers and sisters in faith, we are forever connected and alike. Help us to accept, not neglect, to learn and not fear naiveté. Amen.
About the Author:
Erik Wichita has been a member of Southwood since 1998. He is lifelong learner, lucky to be married to his soul mate, and having fun preparing his two sons for God's gifts ahead.