I will keep this brief: I’m away with Cheryl, celebrating 26 years of marriage, and I have other things on my mind.
The place we’re staying – the exquisite and, under the circumstance, aptly named Honeymoon Bay Retreat Center, is quiet this morning – which it is every morning, I think, and afternoon, and evening. The gardens are bathed in sunlight. A gardener mulches earth outside the window. A thread of spider web, gleaming like silver, spans a pane of glass. On the table beside where I sit and write is a vase of flowers, left for us by Tim & Karla Erickson with a card of congratulations. The flowers: irises, carnations, Gerber daisies, all different shades of pink, yellow leopard lilies, white field daisies (cross-bread to eliminate the foul odour), all set in a sprig of golden rod and a forest of salal.
Flowers are miracles. It’s astonishing to think such a wealth of variety all gathers under a single genus. A pink carnation is as different from a yellow lily as an Amur tiger is from a Tiger prawn.
God loves diversity. He is endlessly inventive in coming up with more species of things than all our sleuthing can name or number. Every year, people rummaging in river beds and reedy marshes and forest floors and forest canopies find new things – bugs and salamanders and hummingbirds, toads and toadstools, and some strain of huckleberry, that we had no knowledge of before. And, sadly, every year, many species go extinct.
Clearly, God loves the much-ness and many-ness of his good creation. I think this is a lesson and caution to any of us who would impose on others too narrow a definition of Christian faith. Many varieties can gather under a single genus. In my life, I’ve seen many fruitless turf wars and shouting matches between branches of Christianity – Charismatics, Pentecostals, Orthodox, Baptists, shades of Baptists, liturgists, mystics, conservatives, etc. Each thought they were in exclusive possession of the full truth, when in fact each was impoverished by itself, and could have been enriched by keeping company with the others.
In John’s vision of the 7 churches of Asia Minor, recorded in Revelation 2 & 3, each church lacks some things and each excels in some ways (well, one church lacks nothing, and one has zero strengths). And each is given a unique and distinct vision of Jesus, meant to help them in their specific situation. How sad that often we take our distinct vision of Jesus, declare it the only right one, and denounce all the others. It’s like a lily telling a carnation it’s not a true flower.
A challenge: make it your business this year to find out what some branch of Christianity you’ve ignored or scorned actually believes. And be open to letting it strengthen your faith.
(So much for being brief).