Diverse People, One Vision

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We cannot truly listen to, act or love all of God’s children if we do not also affirm how God sees all of us. And through affirming one another in all our fullness, God becomes more fully revealed to and known by us.



We cannot truly listen to, act, or love all of God’s children if we do not also affirm how God sees all of us.
And without affirming one another in all our fullness,
God cannot be fully revealed and known to us.


The clip you just watched is from Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story,
Which is about the life and untimely death of China and America’s most well-known Martial Artist.
The scene we just watched took place after Bruce got into some trouble with the law in China and he had to flee for America...
Lucky for him, he was born in America while his mom and dad, who were actors, toured in the States.
That made Bruce, per the constitution, an American Citizen at birth.
We find a young Bruce Lee, excited to arrive in America and talking about it
with a man who seems to have a more cynical approach to what Bruce’s experience will ACTUALLY be once he arrives.
In truth, we find out the man is a history teacher...
And he is not being cynical…but factual.
The way Asians, the Chinese in particular, were treated in this country is a shame...
And, as we all, know that hasn’t changed even in 2021.
Still, the young Bruce Lee thought he was different and, while American society didn’t treat him like he was, Bruce proved that he WAS DIFFERENT.
He worked as a dishwasher for a Chinese restuarant, then as a delivery person...
Practiced his English and over time, ended up seizing the opportunity to teach students...
Not Asian students…but white, black, and hispanic students.
He even taught female students, his future wife being the first.
Bruce Lee believed in diversity and transformative beauty of sharing his culture…his martial arts…with Americans...
He received much pushback from other Chinese martial artists and Martial Arts Councils...
Because they distrusted Americans and thought that Martial arts were for Asians.
This distrust, no doubt, was fueled by the way Asians were treated…
the way they were viewed as less than human...
And there was resistance to anyone who dared to cross the line and share secrets of defense and culture with the oppressors.
Bruce, on the other hand, understood that people were people and that not all people were bad.
Despite being discriminated against as an Asian-American, he still saw the good in those around him...
Those willing to open themselves and learn a new way of being and viewing the world.
Let’s face it, it is because of Bruce Lee that we even have the explosion of Martial Arts Schools that we see in our country today...
And I personally praise God for that.
America has been richly blessed by people like Bruce Lee, who countered racism with radical inclusion and diversity.


It is easy to get comfortable with our own way of worshipping,
experiences of God, and knowing God in a narrow way.
This only gives us a limited view of who God is.
I know I have mentioned this before; however, we didn’t always have a contemporary service.
Sure, we had an early chapel service that appealed to people who prefer to get up early and worship;
however, those people still worshiped in a similar way to the 10:30 a.m. service.
The introduction of the Contemporary service happened under Pastor Jennifer’s pastoral guidance;
However, I know that it was not an easy sell...
People feared that it would divide the congregation up into “two congregations”...
That all we needed to do is become better at traditional worship to attract new people...
The list of reasons went on from there.
There were 99 reasons why we shouldn’t, yet, thankfully, our church chose the one reason over the 99: It was the right thing to do.
This led our church to bring in Christie, who has blessed our church so richly in so many different ways.
It also led to us recognizing a fuller picture of God and how God reaches us differently.
Here’s what we realized.
Different people connect to God and worship God differently.
The contemporary service brought in new people, new members and, prior to the pandemic...
Was growing and growing.
What’s more, none of the concerns came true...
We are not two congregations…but one congregation with two services...
In fact, four of our JOY Fellowship service attendees have served actively in leadership positions.


Rev.7:9-10 specifically highlights that the multitude represented every nation, every tribe, people, and language standing before the throne of God proclaiming the same message :
“Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
This diversity was praised and affirmed by the angels and elders that were gathered in verses 11-12.
Verses 13 and 14 identify those in the multitude as persons who have gone through the great ordeal.
The common experience that binds all these different people together is one of both salvation and suffering.
They have all been through “the ordeal” - persecuted for the sake of God.
They are not identified/identifiable by being blessed over against others.
However, they are all recipients of God’s promise of liberation for the future.
Thus, they waved palm branches, a sign of their victory in Christ.
Furthermore, verse 14 states,
“These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.”
This is not a physical or literal whiteness (they have been washed in blood, after all),
but rather represents the oneness and purity of all.
White robes signify the one baptism that incorporates all into the community of Christ.
True and ultimate redemption in Jesus gathers all people from everywhere, every language.
It is inclusive, rather than exclusive.
This is foretold by the prophet Zechariah (Zech. 10:8), where God says through the prophet:

When I whistle to them, they will come running,

for I have redeemed them.

This passage also points to Acts 2 and the beginning of the church...
when the Holy Spirit was poured out on all the people
and they began to “speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them ability” (Acts 2:4).
It was an inclusive community of all God’s children.
Salvation does not belong to any particular group or what they do to maintain their group identity.
Salvation belongs to God and God alone,
and all are recipients of God’s grace.
Because of this, we are also all givers of God’s grace.
Our sameness does not unite the community of God,
but unity is based on the love of God in Christ alone.
For this reason, our differences do not need to be erased, but can be celebrated.


What are the things that stop you from taking the steps towards embracing the new and unknown?
How can you support others in their desire to do so?
Remember that salvation is not a destination but a journey with God and others.
Even John, when asked the question by the elder (verses 13-14), said,
“Sir, you are the one that knows.”
God gives us grace as we journey – especially to say, “I don’t know,” or “Let’s see,” as we embrace the new and unknown.


Friends, I pray that this series has not only blessed you and fed you Spiritually,
but I truly hope it has opened your eyes to
hearing other voices,
seeing and filling the needs of others
R.E.S.P.E.C.T.ing the other
So that we celebrate diversity.
The truth is, we have much growth in the area of diversity,
And I have some ideas as to how we can begin to grow to be more and more diverse.
Rather than share those ideas here, let me challenge you to reflect on these questions:
how can we, as a church celebrate our unity in Christ by honoring the differences with in our church and wider community?
Email your ideas to newtonumc07860@gmail.com
Until we begin to see the beauty in the diversity of people, we will never fully understand or appreciate our God
who created us to be diverse.
Once we embrace diversity, we can begin to see the fuller picture of God, and especially God in each other.
Let us work together toward being a diverse people with one vision...
That of Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen? Amen.
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