An American Mutt in a Christian Church

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Galatians 3:23-29

Have you ever done genealogy work on your family? Years ago my mother started the work with much help from my brother-in- law and sister (who are here today). We looked at our family tree. You learn a lot about your family… Which leads me to make a confession. I’m an American Mutt. Oh, when the Kirkin’ of the Tartan days come along, I’ll pull out my tartan tie from the Gregor clan representing about 3-4 percent of my bloodline. And I learned somewhere, somehow we are related to Robert the Bruce. But also flowing in these veins are the bloods of the German (hence my name "Welker" )… the English… French Hugenot and who knows what else. My father, from those German roots was raised a faithful Lutheran. There was a time when all Germans were Lutherans by birth. Mixing with Presbyterians would be unheard of. My mother, from English stock with a little Scottish blood mixed in was raised Baptist. And she married a Lutheran. Horror!

So you see, I’m a Mutt. Sometimes I’m envious of my Presbyterian brothers and sisters who seem to be able to trace their roots to Scotland… which is why I tell people I married pedigree-Sharon comes from a long line of MacAlister Presbyterian Scotts. But truth be told, I’m an American, Christian mutt.

But you know what, so are most of you. And, this week, I want to say… be proud of it. Americans from all nations came streaming to our shores hundreds of years ago from nations all over the world. They were beckoned by the vision of a better life that is captured at the base of the Statue of Liberty:
"give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

Rather than putting up fences to keep people out, there was a time when America had a vision of putting out a welcome matt for others. And welcome we did… Jews, Italians, Germans, French, Polish, the English, the Scots-all sorts of people from all over the world.

For a while, many kept to their own kind… in their own neighborhoods (Dad tells me of the Jewish and Italian neighborhoods in Pittsburgh) and (people kept to their own kind) in their own churches… but over time they began to meet each other and marry each other and wala… American mutts were born! I’m the product of parents from the North and South-Yankees and southerners… the perfect Cary Pastor!

Today people are still coming as they are beckoned by that vision. In addition to those still coming from European nations, there are those arriving from Asia, Africa and Latin American countries. Still streaming in as the law permits. Often when they come, they stick to their own kind… as a sort of comfort and safety system for when you live in a new and foreign land. But I don’t blame them. Our ancestors did the same. Why else do you think they lived in ethnic neighborhoods and belonged to ethnic churches? But mark my words, in a generation or two, those who have come as first generation Koreans or Latinos or others will become mutts like the rest of us. Be proud, I say, be proud.

I think God would be proud. For you see, purity and uniformity of race or tribe was never God’s highest goal for us. Unity amidst diversity seems to be what brings God pleasure. Diversity is what adds flavor to life and relationships. Uniformity can seem, bland, if you ask me. Like grits without butter or gravy if you ask me.

It was diversity that described the life and character of the church from the very beginning. Jesus gathered students to follow him from all walks of life-fishermen, tax collectors… the politically apathetic to the zealots ready to fight for a cause. No one can say Jesus gathered a group of like minded people to follow him. And those who responded to his message were not only Jewish but Samaritans, Roman Soldiers, Gentiles, Africans… in fact those most resistant to his message were members of his own ethnic and religious family! How ironic.

Paul, who Dorothy Butler Bass called the Apostle of Diversity, saw the gospel break through the boundaries of race and culture in ways that few could have imagined when his missionary work began. All sorts of boundaries were being crossed!Slaves, Greeks, Jews, males, females were all coming together…

When Paul describes to the Galatians that one comes to faith not based on rules or law but on faith… he comes to that wonderful part describing his vision for the community of believers:
"As many of you as were baptized into Christ, have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus."

In another letter to another diverse group of Christians at Ephesus he wrote:
"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace… so you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God."

You-Jews, Gentiles, whoever you are and wherever you come from…are citizens in this church. Members of God’s very diverse household of believers.

One of the things I love about the Kirk are the signs of that diversity visible among us. Most churches have more diversity than you think. I know the skin color looks the same in many churches but underneath the skin, I tell you there are some real differences. Conservatives and liberals worship side by side. Democrats, republican, libertarians, and independents go to Sunday school together. That is an amazing thing in a politically polarized time.

At the Kirk we are blessed with Christians from all over the world. Listen to some of the accents you hear when you pass the peace… they come from latin America, Europe, Asia, Africa… This diversity is a great blessing for us. We are Christian, American mutts! Be proud!

If I hear Paul right and understand the very gospel Jesus taught… that is something to celebrate as a gift of God to us as a family of faith.

So today in this service we are celebrating that diversity with prayers that come from Presidents from both parties, with music that reflects the diversity of our people… we celebrate as American Mutts in a Christian church who offer thanks to God not only for our nation… but also for the wonderful variety of people who have come here… each one God’s child… each one to be valued and treasured… as members of God’s household…all part of God’s family from all over the world. Amen.

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