I make soup quite a bit. Especially in the winter. And especially when Mariah and I have a week full of evening meetings and we need something that we can stretch for a few meals by adding a little bread or a little salad. Chicken Tortilla is my best. Beer Cheese is probably my favorite. But I also make Sweet Potato Bacon, Butternut Squash, and Forty Garlic on a regular basis.
And there are some soups that are stuff and stock and heat and time. But a lot of the really good soups—the Sweet Potato Bacon, and Butternut Squash, and Forty Garlic—are stuff and stock and heat and time… and then blending it all together.
And for a long time, that meant doing the part that was stuff and stock and heat and time… and then ladling the stuff and stock into the food processor and blending it together bit by bit… transferring back and forth between the stock pot and the Cuisinart. And it was a lot of work. And it took a lot of time. And it meant that the really good soups—the ones that were stuff and stock and heat and time and blending—were a special treat.
And then I bought the immersion blender. And it became a lot easier to take all of this different stuff and make it into one velvety thing.
Our reading today is from Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia. And throughout this letter, Paul is making an argument to those churches. Throughout this letter, Paul is taking a side in a debate that we have been hearing about for a few weeks, first in the book of Acts, and now in this letter to the churches in Galatia.
You see, there are some people who are saying:
We are Christians. We follow the Jewish messiah. And we’re happy to have Gentiles come into the fold. But if they want to do that—if they want to follow the Jewish messiah—then they need to become Jewish. They need to be circumcised. They need to follow the law that God gave to Moses, and that Moses gave to our ancestors, and that our ancestors gave to us.
And Paul… is taking the other side in this debate. And in the part of the letter that we heard snippets of today, he argues:
God made a promise to Abraham: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
And Abraham had faith in God. And that faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.
The Law came later. And the Law is good. The Law is a teacher. And keeping the Law—striving to keep the Law—was how we showed our faith in the God who made the promise to Abraham and gave the Law to Moses. But our inheritance does not come from the Law… it comes from the promise.
And now, in Christ, the promise is fulfilled. All the families of the earth are blessed. Our faith is reckoned to us as righteousness. We were baptized into Christ, so we are clothed by Christ. And clothed by Christ, we are heirs to the promise that God made to Abraham. And that’s true whether we keep the Law or not, whether we are circumcised or not, whether we are Jews or Gentiles.
In Christ, those distinctions are gone. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female. We are one velvety thing in Christ.
And Paul is arguing for including Gentiles in all of their Gentile-ness. Paul is arguing for including people like us in all of our people-like-us-ness. Paul is arguing for inviting the outsiders in… and we’re the outsiders.
There’s this play. It’s a play about Jews and Christians, and Russians and Americans, and the hope of assimilation.
And near the end, the hero of the play says this thing, and I’m paraphrasing a bit:
There it is! What a stirring and a seething. Celt and Latin, Slav and Teuton, Greek and Syrian, black and yellow, Jew and Gentile, East and West, North and South, the palm and the pine, the pole and the equator, the crescent and the cross… how the great Alchemist melts and fuses them with his purging flame. A melting pot.
It is tempting to imagine the church—where there is no Jew or Greek, or slave or free, or male or female—as a melting pot… as a community where all of our differences and distinctions melt away.
But the problem with melting pots—the problem with immersion blenders—is that those differences and distinctions matter. A melting pot might be fine for metal. And an immersion blender is great for soup. But they are not for people.
God made us in all of this amazing variety. God calls to us in all of this amazing variety. And the gospel is not and immersion blender; and Christ does not take away all of our differences. We are not one velvety thing. We are multitudes… bound together by love… united by the promise that has been fulfilled in Christ Jesus:
Jew and Greek… and Celt and Latin and Slav and Teuton and Syrian and everything else. Man and woman… and non-binary and genderqueer and everything else. Unity and diversity. Unity in diversity. One, but not the same.
The image for the church is not a soup all blended together. The image for the church is not a melting pot where new outsiders are assimilated into what is already here.
The image for the church is a salad bowl: all of these different things—all of these difference people—together and in harmony in all of our variety.
I want to be clear here: being the church—being a salad bowl—is not easy.
We live in a world that is divided. We live in a world that thrives on division. We live in a world where big forces are working very hard to sort us. We live in a world where it is easy to find groups of people who are just like us.
We can do it online. We can do it in real life. We can find places where we can be part of one velvety thing.
And, believe me, I understand how tempting it is to do that. I understand how tempting it is to curate our communities so that we can be comfortable in a sea of homogeneity. I understand how tempting it is to be surrounded by people who are just. like. me. Where I am not challenged… where I am not confronted… where I am not made uncomfortable.
But I also know that is not what God calls us to. No. God calls us to bravery:
It is a brave thing to step into a space that is full of difference. It is a brave thing to step into a place that is open to anyone and everyone. It is a brave thing to cultivate a community that is full of distinction and diversity.
It is a brave thing to forget about the immersion blender and the melting pot… and look at all of those beautiful differences… and not even try to paper over them, or blend them away, or make them disappear.
It is a brave thing to embrace them. It is a brave thing to celebrate them. It is a brace thing to look at the outsider who has walked in and say, “Come in! You are welcome here. We will not try to change you. We will let God work in all of us and we will see what we become together.”
And it is a brave thing to mean it.
But I believe… no… I know… that we live in a world that is in desperate need of that bravery. We live in a world that is in desperate need of communities where people can have had conversations… where people can have deep disagreements… and where people can love each other.
Where people can love each other, in all of our diversity and difference, with reckless extravagance. Where people can let the Spirit move in all of its mysterious ways. Where people can be bound together in love and trust in nothing more than a promise that we shall all be blessed.
I know that we live in a world that is in desperate need of communities that can be little consulates of the kingdom of God… little beacons of light leading to love.
And I have faith that we can be one of those communities: brave and loving and reckless; wild and dangerous and full of grace.