Thursday of Epiphany 2 – I Corinthians 12:1-11

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

Diversity and inclusion are watchwords of this moment. Universities, corporations, and other entities in our world are hiring diversity and inclusion officers or engaging in similar campaigns. I am all for including folks and dislike segregation. It seems, however, like the movement for this has grown increasingly shrill. To put it plainly, those who often bandy the diversity term about have become, ironically, quite intolerant, enforcing the movement’s dicta by excluding anyone who disagrees.

Paul speaks of another sort of diversity, a diversity which seems much greater to me than that which is proposed by the diversity wardens of the current regime. What distinguishes this Pauline diversity is a place of rock-solid safety and identity. Christ’s universal love and the Spirit He has poured out provide us with the ability to be truly diverse. Christianity is somewhat unique in this. We do not have a singular dress, diet, or other cultural markers which set us apart. One cannot really be Muslim without adopting some of the culture of Arabia, especially the language. Hinduism is inextricably intertwined with south Asian culture. Judaism is marked by diet and sabbath. Christianity is remarkably flexible in these things, because there is one thing which stands in the middle of it all: Christ and His Spirit.

Last summer, on a warm evening, I went walking in my neighborhood past a church. It had recently changed hands from a very white and declining parish to a vibrant place filled with Ethiopians. They sang songs which I could not understand except for the occasional “Alleluia.” That came through clearly. I knew they were praising Jesus. I could hear his name sometimes too. But little else about their worship, dress, language, or expression of Christianity looked much like the parish which I serve, just a few blocks away. Yet, I was listening to Christians sing, the same Spirit blew through that assembly and the same Lord was listening to every subtle nuance and inflection of their prayers. He speaks their language too. In Him and His Spirit, we are one.  

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