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Unity does not always mean uniformity; diversity can work hand in hand with harmony

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Mike Wilson"Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear." ~Ephesians 4:29

As I put this column together, another several dozen Kits for Kids bags had just been filled and now line the front of our sanctuary. These basic toiletries are given to our schools and then discreetly provided to kids who have need of them. Prineville Presbyterian Church has enjoyed this community relationship for many years.

We're also sending 53 one-gallon water jugs to Warm Springs Reservation in addition to the substantial aid we provided last month as we nurture our new relationship with the community there.

Because actions speak louder than words, I thought about the above Bible verse; words heard by the church in Ephesus 2,000 years ago, and words that need to guide our actions today. Then, as it does now, it sets our guidelines and expectations as Jesus followers.

Tradition says Paul wrote this. He got the Christian church up and running and quickly ran into objections. However, Paul's vision is bigger than any individual; it is cosmic. And while he understands God's final purpose is Jesus making us right with God, it's also about unity and harmony with Jesus as head of the church making this happen.

Now, the fact this was written suggests it was in response to events that had not promoted harmony and unity. So, our first step in following Jesus' desire for unity and harmony begins with: unity does not mean uniformity.

There is rich diversity known in the generosity of God's gift giving to build up the church. Diversity that works hand in hand with harmony. From the Oxford Languages online dictionary: "harmony: the combination of simultaneously sounded musical notes to produce chords and chord progressions having a pleasing effect."

Any number of musical groups come to mind where different voices are brought together in making beautiful music.

The Oxford dictionary then had this second definition for harmony: "An arrangement of the four Gospels or of any parallel narratives which presents a single continuous narrative text."

As there's diversity that brings the musical harmony together, there's tremendous diversity across the Biblical accounts and its other writings focusing on Jesus.

We've got diversity among His first 12 disciples, plus several dozen more followers Jesus sent out, and even more among those prominently featured throughout Jesus' ministry - both before and after His resurrection.

By one count that's roughly 150 who are named, plus countless more who are not so prominent; all people Jesus appeared before and appealed to who became Christ followers.

All from a variety of societies and cultures with different dress, languages and attitudes who may not be quickly named or easily counted; yet each of them did count to God and God's Kingdom building plans. And that continues today.

Let your mind wander around the globe and think of the diversity among Christians today. As we make a few horizontal circles around the equator and vertically over the poles, circle back to this reading where somebody as different from me as I am from them are called to join the harmony of God's Kingdom building plans.

Unity and harmony can be hard to do, especially in a world as diverse as ours, which includes a community as diverse as Crook County is becoming. However, if it was easy, Jesus wouldn't need to show us how it's done.

And if we as the collective Christian church would read this and hear it over and over until we could actually live it; imagine the life-changing power this unity could bring.

An Ethiopian proverb sums it up this way: "When spiders unite, they can tie down a lion." We cannot spell community without including unity.

Mike Wilson is the pastor of Prineville Presbyterian Church. He can be reached at 541-447-1017.

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