As has been the practice for the past several years, Christ-followers in the Lowcountry these past weeks have been moving from church building to church building each Wednesday at noon during the season of Lent. They come from different backgrounds, different locations, different neighborhoods.
They sit next to people they might not have met before. They sing songs that might be unfamiliar in either word, tune or tempo.
They listen as a preacher, perhaps of a different gender or race or theological perspective, proclaims a message in words or style or interpretation that is different than what they normally hear.
These people gather because of one simple truth. Their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is greater than any difference or barrier or preference or practice that might tend to keep them separated.
They come to be a visible and tangible example of the body of Christ, full of diversity and differences, but yet fully united.
In a world that seems to be ever focused on division and differences, on building bigger barriers to keep us separated from the “other” or attempting to yell louder to avoid listening better, this group of believers is a small testimony to an alternative way of living.
One only need experience this gathering to see the greetings shared, the handshakes exchanged, the conversations flourish as connections are made and reinforced.
What becomes evident quite quickly is that there is so much more that we hold in common than what might attempt to keep us apart.
This Lenten practice of shared worship also includes the grim reminder and too frequently ignored or forgotten reality of our broken humanity, both individually and collectively.
Left all to ourselves, not one of us, not a single one, is able to claim a status of any significant worthiness or value. Our thoughts and passions, if not our outward actions towards others and even the world, when left unchecked and unbridled, give evidence to that.
However, the good news, the fantastic news, of Lent that culminates in the mystery of Easter is that God believes the world is worth saving.
This was demonstrated in the life and witness of the person called Jesus, who came, lived, served, died and was raised again that we might know just much we are loved.
Love, the love that is and comes from God, is the power that changes us and allows us to change the world. This sacrificial love has the power to unite us, motivate us, challenge us and comfort us all at the same time!
It is a gift to be shared with others – let’s do it!
Pete Berntson is the pastor of Church of the Palms United Methodist Church in Okatie.