Is Your Cross Cross-Cultural?

After driving up and down restaurant lane for hours with the whole family in tow my mother finally capitulated that it would be all right to try an ethnic cuisine with the caveat, “You can take me in there, but you can’t make me eat.”  An American German Catholic to the core of her apple sauce she was not what today we would call multi-cultural. A waitress for twenty nine years at the same restaurant in Wisconsin she eventually warmed, or at least thawed toward the wait staff in New Mexico when our waitress suggested the cook could make her a hamburger instead of a taco. We kids rolled our eyes and wondered when if ever she would ‘get with the times.’

 

The current political climate in the United States might suggest that she was ahead of her time as the backlash against immigrant cultures dominates our headlines and legislatures. The Christian community, if such a broad concept still holds any weight, is smack dab in the middle of the great divide. Some churches offer sanctuary in the face of deportation, some ostracize the slightest deviance of a mythical Puritan norm.

 

When John’s disciples asked Jesus if He was the Messiah (Matthew chapter 11) He told them to go back and report, “the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is preached to the poor.”  I find it telling that being considerate of the poor is on an equal footing with raising the dead as a proof of Christ’s miraculous mission. He further emphasized this sense of caring and compassion by stating, “if you give even a cup of cold water to the least of these, you will surely be rewarded.” Apparently this was not meant to be a mere suggestion as He stipulates, “If you refuse, to take up your cross, and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine.”

 

The worthiness of a human being from a culture other than the one we are raised in, is not for us to decide or even debate. The cultural differences, are just that. Not everyone appreciates jalapenos, and a culture that dehumanizes daughters for example, is not to be glossed over with a bland sort of different strokes for different folks philosophy, but the point of connection, the cross over, is where we find ourselves equal in Our Father’s eyes.

 

What would it take for each of to walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes? Maybe the first step in our journey, like the Good Samaritan’s, is to recognize the injury of prejudice and the wounds of racial intolerance. We are privileged to be ambassadors of Christ, the responsibility that comes with it is mindful kindness. The reward is a seat at the Banquet, next to your neighbor, and the Son of Man, the Prince of Peace, and my Mom.

Our Neighborhood Now

I knelt, silently, with a world of believers in Saint Peter’s Basilica. The colors of skin, the shapes of faces, the cut of the wardrobe all part of the fabric weaving us together. The pilgrimage, long a tradition, made new by the escape from irrational politics to a place of faith. ‘Set your mind on things above’ is a tad easier when the ceiling vaults to a sky like proportion, the prayers of centuries past echoing just beyond candlelit whispers.
 
The devout, come out of the crowd, take a knee, and return to the turning world. What we bring to the throne comes home with us, an adopted dove of peace forever ours to feed and keep. We are connected by the presence of Spirit seeking an indwelling relationship. This brotherhood, this kinship sealed in the Lord’s Prayer. Our Father, emphasis on Our, welcomes us with robes and rings.
 
We run from love to find Love running to us bright as a train leaving a lifelong tunnel. The mind clears, the soul quickens, the heart expands, it really is our neighbor as ourself that defines our legacy, our children’s inheritance. We are all immigrants to the citizenship of heaven. It is not our home, but His. He invites us to take it by the hand by lending a hand to those in need. This is the custom of being heavenly. Grace is best known in movement, in generosity, in compassionate care, in extended family. Our Father.
 
The language of worship doesn’t need to be spoken, or translated. Adoration is the door we enter to know His people. While we are yet still afar off, while we are yet sinners, we are known, called home, and called to reconcile. Faith without action is dead. The most simple thing to share is the light in our eyes, and the greatest thing to receive is His perspective. 
I went to church in a foreign land with Egyptians, Romanians, Italians, Germans, and a host of others. The whole time I had a sense of God opening his photo album to show me how His children have grown. Everywhere we turn, there is God with His Selfie-stick saying, “Smile.”

'Tis of Thee

Unless you were born here, you must pass a citizenship test to become a citizen of the United States of America. You become naturalized by memorizing rules, regulations, and history. However you become a more natural American when you realize a hot dog can be both something you eat, or a show off on the ball field. It’s knowing the idiosyncratic nuances of the language, customs and cultural norms that help immigrants feel at home in their adopted country, and unfortunately it is ignorance of the customs and cultures they bring with them that lead to prejudicial persecution.

As heirs in Christ we are ambassadors to the world around us. In it, not of it. Citizens of Heaven if you will, but unless we know the language, the customs, and culture of heaven we will feel out of place in both worlds. The goal is not to try and force this world to match our expectations, but to live such heavenly lives that Christ’s proclamation, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” become a tangible reality for the folks we live with, work with, relax with, or come to meet as if by chance.

We don’t have to pass a test on chapter and verse to earn this new status. We are born-again into relationship with The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by faith. We trust that He will never leave us, or forsake us, or to bring it a little closer to home, deport us, or ban us entry into His Grace. Love God, love your neighbor. Done deal. If love were our natural composition we wouldn’t need a commandment, or supernatural power to sustain it, but we do and we do.

We go and do likewise. We feed the hungry, we visit the sick and imprisoned, we give shelter, comfort, clothing, and fellowship. We are Good Samaritans before we are Good Americans, and we look to the day when they both mean the same thing.

Love Is In The Air We Breathe

 

Somehow becoming a climate crisis denier has become the social and political equivalent of defending God’s sovereign power. The world He asks us not to be of isn’t the earth, the natural vulnerable planet we are to steward, but the corrupt world of men’s lust for power. Trying to excuse, or ignore, the consequences of our environmental choices because we believe God could fix it all in a snap is lazy theology. Be ye transformed, by the renewal of your energy, is a gospel all of creation is groaning to hear.

 

Wisdom applied to our household trash, our consumption habits, and our modes of transportation would be a welcome change of scenery. Just by changing a letter, greed becomes green. What responsible personal choices might we make today, and tomorrow, to insure future todays and tomorrows for our grandkids and their grandkids?

 

There is nothing sacred about poluting our air and water. To do so for the profit of a few at the expense of the many is oppression. Our faith is built upon doing for the least of these and the least we can do is save a little breathing space for future use. The Tree of Life is any oxygen producing plant converting the CO2 gas in the air from a poison to a positive. I’d love to see a church youth group planting real live oaks, in righteousness, in the hood.

 

Picking up trash at the beach, giving carpool rides to shut-ins, pulling a neighbor’s weeds, by hand, to eliminate the use of carcinogetic herbicide are all community service projects waiting for the armies of the Lord to volunteer. Walt Kelly, creator of Pogo, a syndicated comic strip of yesteryear quipped, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” It is true the battle is the Lord’s, but like the Marines, He is looking for good personnel.

 

The song says they will know we are Christians by our love. Wouldn’t it be lovely if they knew us by our carbon footprint as well ?