There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called
to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
I was sitting in a Methodist seminary in South Africa participating in the evening chapel service. The students, professors and families attending represented countries from all over the continent of Africa, so the prayer book containing all of the elements of the Methodist service was translated into nine different languages, including English.
When it was time to read the Lord’s Prayer, we all said the same ideas simultaneously but expressed them in different words. It was a comfortable cacophony: each of us spoke in the language of heart and home.
After communion, however, my understanding of this service was transformed and deepened. As the congregation sang How Great Thou Art, the music tapped into my imaginings of heaven. People sang within both African and European, and African American traditions, mostly in the shared language of English, but not entirely.
Some African men started a line of the song in a chant and then others joined in wonderful harmony. It was a moment where seventy people from around the globe were praising and worshipping the same God through the experiences of many traditions and cultures, without subordinating one another, but instead enhancing each other. One song, many versions.
That service has replayed itself in my mind many times. I think it is what God expects of us as a community of believers. We come from different places and walk along different journeys, but we are all seeking the face and heart of God. This process will not be experienced identically nor will we sing in unison, but it will be the same song and be more beautiful for it.
- Father, teach us to learn from one another,
not expecting others to be identical to us
but understanding how we may enhance one another.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Lenten Reflection for Sunday, March 13, 2011, by Michelle D. Deardorff