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When I first landed in Kathmandu in the summer of 2018, my jaw fell slack at the vibrant colors.  My mind immediately went to the foundation stones of the Celestial City- jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, and amethyst, with streets of gold, gates of pearl and a crystal sea!  Wild!  I fell in-love with the Nepali people: their culture, their calmness, their vibrance!  It reminded me of the Kingdom of heaven and made me want to travel the world discovering all the things in every culture that would remind me of Christ and His beloved church!  I still want to do that!

I have always been a traveler.  Because of my wanderlust, I have been to more church gatherings than anyone I know, other than Smiles (and maybe Forest since he traveled the country with us as a baby!).  As young, untethered Christians, meandering back and forth across the country, we would sporadically stop by churches whenever we would happen to find one on a Sunday morning.  As a result, we may have bypassed the whole “judge everyone by their denomination” thing.  It didn’t matter to us whether they were Baptist or Pentecostal or Lutheran.  It mattered if they were loving!  If they embraced or rejected us (because when you smell like you’re hitchhiking the country, it’s one extreme or the other!).

As I’ve matured, I’ve learned to place a greater value on good theology (basically, that they teach the Truth of Scripture), but I still place just as high a value on whether or not churches are full of love.

One of the most loving churches we’ve ever visited was in Unity, OR.  It was Forest’s first church service post-birth.  The only space to sit was in the very front pew.  A sea of white-headed saints and angels were crammed into all the other space in the building. And boy, did they love on that little baby in our arms (and sometimes in theirs!).

Another one of my favorites was a congregation of about 4-5 elderly women in Pistol River, OR, where they would often invite Smiles up to preach when he was just cutting his teeth at it. They even offered to make him their pastor, but we were a young family who needed much more spiritual formation before he was ready for all that. They sure were a doting bunch of sweet saints, and I am almost sure they are all with Jesus now.

Another on my list of favorites might be a chaotic group of Pentecostals with all the drum beating, foot stomping, speaking in tongues and not making any sense or rhythm, but super loving (I wouldn’t recommend this church for their theology, but I sure would recommend the individuals we met there).

There was that Spanish-speaking church in Flagstaff, AR, and the crowded-with-glory-and-people church in Beaverton, OR who offered us a bath in their dunk tank (they had just had a church carnival the day before).  The list could go on, as could the diversity of each body.

I think this is why I loved the vibrant colors of Nepal and why they reminded me of heaven and of the Church.  It’s not just church congregations who are diverse… its people.  We are like the Nepali country side speckled with bold colors.  Not only do we have different styles, but even different gifts and talents, different tastes, different passions.  We were created that way.  The great tragedy is that many of us feel like we have to fit someone else’s mold and we lose that robust, creative nature we were crafted to exhibit.

I am not saying you have to dress in bold colors or live a loud existence to fill your niche in the Body of Christ.  Nor am I saying, you should wear a suit and tie to fit in.  I am saying the opposite.  I am saying you fill the niche just as you were created to be.

One of the most loving churches I’ve been to was overflowing with farmers and their wives, none of which seemed to be less than 70 or 80 years old.  We did not fit their mold, and they did not fit ours… but we all delighted in one another. We were bonded together with love and it made us all a fuller spectrum of vibrancy!

I believe one of the reasons we get hung up by denominational divides is because we only see the value in who WE were created to be, and not the gifts in one another.  We also tend to resonate with those who are most like us, and devalue those who aren’t.  There is a whole genre of people who are more likely to hear the freeing Truth about Jesus from me because of my bold, cheerfully colorful existence… but there is another genre who would never hear it from me, but would, in fact, hear it from my friend, Rita, who recently described herself as “vanilla”.  She probably looks more like one of those pearly gates, and I look more like the sapphire stone in the foundation!  But we are both a part of that Holy City.  We are both a fragment of that one, singular Bride of Christ!  And what will matter there is not how we dressed, whether we sang hymns or more modern music at church, or what denomination we belonged to.  It will matter whether or not we received Christ’s love for us and how well we let it spill out of our souls onto others, and especially other Christians (John 13:35)!  The facts of the matter are, we weren’t created to be individuals at all.  We were created to be one Body (Romans 12:3-10).  May God’s majesty be manifest through our true unity, under the banner of His Word, and through our love for one another, as we each seek to live the existence we were created for to the fullest, for the glory of God!

Space 4/25/24




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