February 25, 2018

Second Sunday in Lent – February 25, 2018 from Trinity Lutheran Church on Vimeo.

We are called to embrace diversity

What do you think of diversity? How would you describe diversity?

What does diversity look like in your life? How do you experience diversity?


The second phrase in our mission statement is, if we are honest, a difficult one.

I mean, it is one thing to acknowledge diversity, to recognize it exists, but to embrace diversity, to welcome it.

Well, that suggests we think diversity is a good thing, that we value it, will go out of our way to experience it.

Is that really true? Do we think diversity is a good thing?


Here is what your government says

Montgomery County, PA is home to a population of 819,264 people.

The ethnic composition of the population of Montgomery County, PA is composed of 625,712 White residents (76.4%), 71,932 Black residents (8.78%),  62,502 Asian residents (7.63%), 39,792 and Hispanic residents (4.86%).

The most common non-English languages in Montgomery County, PA are Spanish (25,950 speakers), Korean (10,408 speakers), and Chinese (9,888 speakers).1

Is that diversity? Is that the kind of diversity we are embracing?

Does Trinity look like our community?


Why is Trinity mostly Caucasian while just down the road at Penndale Middle School there are students from Cuba, Bangladesh, India, Korean and China.  Are there any Chinese at Trinity?

Two more after the baptisms of Allison and Locklon Bow Willison tonight/yesterday.

We are privileged to embrace them at the font with God’s love.

and see our diversity grow.


God is into diversity you know.

There are 30 million types on insects, 8.7 million species of animals, 339 breeds of dogs, 40 species of cats, over 30 kinds of grains, 400,000 types of flowers, and 32 NFL Teams.  

Wait, they were created by God. Never mind.

But why is it, with all the variety in creation we tend to find diversity threatening?

Both historically and personally we tend, if left to our own devices, stay away from people who are different from us.

At our worse we have enslaved and killed those different from us.

And even at our best we belong to churches that continue segregation.


Bp Burket encouraged us at last year’s synod assemble to be intentional at developing relationship with those different from us.

What would that look like if we reached out to some of those Penndale families?

Not for the purpose of getting them to church but for the purpose of honoring God’s diversity.

What would it be like to have make friends that look different from us not to change them but to learn from them and experience embracing diversity?  


In our reading from Isaiah we hear how foreigners are a necessary population for God’s house of prayer, a house of prayer for all peoples.

In Matthew’s Gospel we hear faith spoken by an outsider, someone who looks, thinks and acts different from typical heirs of the kingdom.

It appears from the earliest of times,2

the church is not a club of the likeminded or the similarly inclined.

The church is not the chummy togetherness of people who are socio-economically alike or persons who nurture each other’s interest in a cozy support group.

The church is held together by something more substantial than nonabrasive theology or the inoffensive assertion that it doesn’t really matter what we believe as long as we are sincere.

The church is not what we bring to it or what we make out of it, but rather what God, in baptism and through the church, brings and makes out of us.


We are called to embrace diversity

What do you think of diversity? How would you describe diversity?

What does diversity look like in your life? How do you experience diversity?

Here is another way to talk about diversity in the church from Kelly Fryer.

Maybe the very hardest thing for us Christian to get our heads around is the idea that our church does not exist to meet our needs.

That is, admittedly, a strange idea. We pay the bills. We do the work.

It is only expected that we would on a really bad day, imagine that what happens at church should make us happy.3


Recently I met a man who is well –intentioned and longtime leader in his church.

Every Sunday morning, on his way out of worship, he would say to his pastor, Why don’t we ever sing any of the good hymns?

Finally, the pastor invited him to make a list of the hymns he really likes.  

It seemed easier, he imagined, to plan on just including these good hymns than it was to imagine seeing this poor guy leave unhappy every single week.

Well, it turns out, when he turned in the list, there were just 6.


We are funny this way. We talk about “my” church, as though the church were really ours, instead of God’s.

But God never intended for it to be this way.

The church doesn’t exist to meet our needs, it never did. Never will.

We’ve been looking at this perspective on Wednesday during our Bible Study.

In our study of the Acts of the Apostles we are discovering that the church may be the only organization on the planet that exits entirely for the sake of those people who don’t belong to it yet.  

In fact, it seems, as soon as we forget this, start making Trinity all about us, we stop being the church.


We are called to embrace diversity

To be in the church is to be together in God’s family, that strange, peculiar, clan, begotten by water and the Word.

Like any family, one cannot join the family of God. One must be adopted.

Joining the church is not simply a matter of joining a volunteer organization of religiously inclined people.

We do not join the church as much as we are joined to into it.

Nobody chooses his or her parents.

The parents beget and chose the child.

The same can be said for the children of mother church.


We are called to embrace diversity


Elinor stood with her weight on one foot, then on the other.

The line ahead of her was moving so slowly that it would be ages before she got her turn at the Judgment Seat.

Then she picked up her nose. What as that delicious smell?

She leaned out of line and saw an angel coming along the line carrying a tray of hot buttered rolls, holding out the tray to each person.

Elinor had been standing in line so long that she was very hungry.

And a few minutes the angel would be offering her a roll.

Then she suddenly realized – she must not take the roll.

All of her life he had done his best to avoid being carried away by pleasure to ignore the variety in God’s good creation.

She had seen too many people live only for their own enjoyment and had made up her mind that he would not be one of them.

For years, therefore, she had deliberately ignored pleasurable things, the diverse and beautiful things of creation

in order to focus her attention more fully on serving God.


As Elinor continues to wait for her judgement she passes by a bed of fragrant flowers, and then a cute kitten beckons her to pet it.

She surmises that she is being tested to determine if she can keep her focus on godly things amid these distractions.

As she approached the end of his journey however she heard God saying, Well done, my daughter, I’m glad you have come home.

There is just one thing…

Then Elinor noticed that God had something on his lap – a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.  

On the table next to God’s throne he noticed a vase of fragrant flowers, and a plate with a half-eaten roll.4


We are called to embrace diversity


1 https://datausa.io/profile/geo/montgomery-county-pa/

2 Remember Who You Are: Baptism, a Model for Christian Life, June 1, 1998, William H. Willimon.

3 Reclaiming the “L” Word, Kelly Fryer, 2003.

4 Adapted from Mark Allen Powell, Loving Jesus, 2004