Using Philippians 2 as our foundation, we've explored what it means for us as a church to have the same attitude as Christ, lowering ourselves for the sake of those around us - for the sake of those who are different than us - and in so doing, creating a community which unlocks the full diversity of our gifts.
We've talked about choosing between two paths:
The Path of Hate: Superiority --> Discrimination --> Dehumanization
The Path of Self-Giving Love: Humility --> Compassion --> Elevation
During this sermon, we are talking about one more topic which has come to the forefront in our modern, globalized world: how we as the Church should respond when we encounter people of other nationalities and cultures.
1 ""Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the LORD rises to shine on you. 2 Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the LORD rises and appears over you. 3 All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see your radiance. 4 Look and see, for everyone is coming home! Your sons are coming from distant lands; your little daughters will be carried home. 5 Your eyes will shine, and your heart will thrill with joy, for merchants from around the world will come to you. They will bring you the wealth of many lands. 6 Vast caravans of camels will converge on you, the camels of Midian and Ephah. The people of Sheba will bring gold and frankincense and will come worshiping the LORD . 7 The flocks of Kedar will be given to you, and the rams of Nebaioth will be brought for my altars. I will accept their offerings, and I will make my Temple glorious. 8 And what do I see flying like clouds to Israel, like doves to their nests? 9 They are ships from the ends of the earth, from lands that trust in me, led by the great ships of Tarshish. They are bringing the people of Israel home from far away, carrying their silver and gold. They will honor the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has filled you with splendor. 10 Foreigners will come to rebuild your towns, and their kings will serve you. For though I have destroyed you in my anger, I will now have mercy on you through my grace. 11 Your gates will stay open day and night to receive the wealth of many lands. The kings of the world will be led as captives in a victory procession. 12 For the nations that refuse to serve you will be destroyed. 13 The glory of Lebanon will be yours, the forests of cypress, fir, and pine, to beautify my sanctuary. My Temple will be glorious! 14 The descendants of your tormentors will come and bow before you. Those who despised you will kiss your feet. They will call you the City of the LORD, and Zion of the Holy One of Israel. 15 Though you were once despised and hated, with no one traveling through you, I will make you beautiful forever, a joy to all generations. 16 Powerful kings and mighty nations will satisfy your every need, as though you were a child nursing at the breast of a queen. You will know at last that I, the LORD, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel. 17 I will exchange your bronze for gold, your iron for silver, your wood for bronze, and your stones for iron. I will make peace your leader and righteousness your ruler. 18 Violence will disappear from your land; the desolation and destruction of war will end. Salvation will surround you like city walls, and praise will be on the lips of all who enter there.""
So, Israelites held onto this hopeful picture for centuries. Even into the early Church. Listen to how the Apostle John describes Jerusalem in the New Creation in Revelation.
The nations will walk in [the light of the Lamb], and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city.
However, with the coming of Jesus, this whole idea got a huge twist.
Wise men from the east bring him gold and frankincense (not the temple). He speaks of himself as the temple of God - the meeting place between heaven and earth. And listen to how he sends out his followers:
""But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere, in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.""
At Pentecost, that curse is healed, but not by everyone speaking one language again, but by the disciples preaching the gospel in all the languages. Listen to how the crowd responds:
They were completely amazed. ""How can this be?"" they exclaimed. ""These people are all from Galilee, and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! Here we are, Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!""
This was Isaiah 60 coming to life, but in a way nobody saw coming. The temple of God was going to the nations.
As new cultures and nations joined the family of God, they brought their unique gifts and wealth and knowledge and perspective to bear to make the temple of God beautiful. You see it all throughout the New Testament!
Because of the Holy Spirit, we, the body of Christ, are the meeting place between Heaven and Earth. I said in week one that the ground beneath our feet is New Creation. We are citizens of heaven living on this planet.
And since our nation is so deeply broken by hatred and division, we have the opportunity, as representatives of our king, to show our world a different way to live.
We can be a community where different cultures come together in their uniqueness to make the dwelling place of God beautiful.
So often we close ourselves off from other cultures because we see them as a threat, not a blessing. To have compassion on other nationalities, we have to be willing to let others into our lives and we have to use our own strength/power/wealth/gifts (our own gold and frankincense) to lift them up.
If we are willing to walk the path of Self-Giving Love together in our approach to other cultures, we can become multicultural and represent the kingdom of God to our world.
We are the body of Christ. Citizens of heaven. The ground beneath our feet is New Creation. Where we go, the light of Christ rises over the darkness.