Almost forty years ago I moved to Windsor the first time. I was a grade seven boy at the front end of puberty in a new neighbourhood called Forest Glade. I was the new kid at Roseville Public School coming midway through the year. I was the new pastor’s kid at Riverside Evangel Tabernacle that would soon become Calvary Community Church.
Like any normal kid, I wanted to be accepted and make friends. I wanted to find some way to fit in and belong. Those were interesting and formative years of my life. I discovered God, girls and guitars but not always in that order.
My teen and early twenties were times of wrestling the angel to receive God’s blessing. In many ways, I find myself returning to the mats with God and He still pins me. At that time of my life, the struggle revolved around asking God what I should do with my life. I thought he might need another rock star and tried to convince Him, but I discovered that God didn’t take self-absorbed cynics too seriously. I had an attitude that I could do something great for God as long as it didn’t involve going through the Church.
Looking back I realize how prone to cynicism I was. In my reaction to others I saw as hypocrites and Pharisees, I became twice the dark soul that they were. I cannot blame my family for this. I was responsible for fostering an elitist attitude. Back in youth group I remember joking with friends by asking the question, “Do you know where sinners go?” The answer was “Bethel” which of course became University Gospel Temple that became the church where I’ve been invited to speak this morning…
It turns out that it’s true. Sinners do go to Parkwood Gospel Temple-- and the church I pastor and every church that puts a sign out front with the words ‘Every one welcome’.
In my youthful zeal I did not realize that I viewed churches in a tribal fashion. There was a good group (us) and there were you. Today, I find myself wrestling the angel over a dozen other groups of people that I have lumped into ‘us and them’.
Gather people together around a common cause and you will create ‘us and them’. What can be more familiar than the differences between ‘us and them’?
Children quickly learn to differentiate between the desirable kids and the undesirable-- the ‘haves’ and the ‘have not’s’. They perpetuate what they see all around them.
A reading of Jesus’ words and action reveals a vision of humanity that redefines ‘us and them’. As a Jewish man from an unimportant town, He taught a new way of looking at Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, male and female, master and slave. He did not obliterate cultural and gender distinctions, but redefined the rules according to God’s emerging Kingdom.