There has been much talk in the news in recent weeks about division: People have aligned themselves as either 'Remainers' or 'Brexiters' and many heated discussions have been had in the last months. Wherever we are in the world we are classified as either an immigrant or part of the indigenous population (in the UK I qualify for the latter but I know for a fact that my gene pool is a soup of Dutch, German & Romanian to name but a few!) In the US some people chant 'build the wall' to signify that they want a physical separation from Mexico, and in various parts of the world certain items of clothing are singled out as problematic and are even banned. The emphasis is on that which divides humanity rather than unites.
And yet the Biblical vision of heaven, of a time when God's purpose has been fulfilled, reads very differently:
I looked again. I saw a huge crowd, too huge to count. Everyone was there – all nations and tribes, all races and languages. And they were standing, dressed in white robes and waving palm branches, standing before the Throne and the Lamb and heartily singing:
Salvation to our God on his Throne!
Salvation to the Lamb! (Revelation 7. 9-10)
It is a vision in which difference is recognised but celebrated; where there is no 'right' colour but a rainbow of possibility; where the barriers of language are overcome by shared understanding; where the diversity of custom is valued and respected and all are encompassed within the deep and unfathomable love of God.
The challenge is to make our church a snapshot of heaven on earth. It is one of the joys of AMC to have people from all over the world, as well as people from diverse backgrounds with wide ranging abilities and resources from across the generations. It means that not everybody thinks like us or shares the same joy in the things we value, and yet mostly, through grace and love, we aim to form a community of Christ; to be his body here in Aylesbury.
And this must be our calling: in a world that is so focused on division the Church must be the place that offers a different vision. As a community we must be intentionally inclusive, purposely tolerant, deliberately loving and outrageously gracious. For then and only then will the words of John 3.16 ring true:
'For God so loved the world (that's all of it ..... in all it's wonderful divergence) that he gave his only son'.