I spent the day of the Alberta provincial election in Saskatchewan. Don't worry, I voted in the advance poll. As I was driving back the next day, I approached the border with some trepidation. From all that I'd read on social media, I was expecting there to be a great chasm at the border and, beyond it, "a barren wasteland, riddled with fire and ash and dust. The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume." (That's Boromir's description of Mordor, from the Lord of the Rings, by the way.)
Of course, it wasn't. In fact, the road got a little better and there was a little more traffic - not rushing out of the province, either, as I was expecting - and things were pretty much as they were the day before. Yes, time will tell. But shouldn't we give a little time? So we can tell? We're all people, after all, people who we hope are doing their best and, whoever we all voted for, maybe we should give these people a chance.
Lately, I've heard more than a few people worried, in a similar way, about the future of the church, the United Church, specifically, but I think this applies more generally, too. There are some ideas being proposed that are pretty radical and different, some of which require us to put more trust in ordinary people, different people than before, people that might be different from us.
I think that ought to be cause for hope, for confidence in an exciting future full of possibility. But I'm getting the impression that lots of people don't feel that way.
That's fair, I guess. We hold fast to what we know, what's familiar, that we feel has been working for us. But sometimes, the community as a whole might need to move in another direction. The community as a whole, of course, means recognizing all the community, even - especially - the parts we find hardest to engage. You know, people we think of us "them," whatever "them" might be.
That's not new. The Book of Acts in the Bible records the story of the earliest days of the followers of Jesus becoming the early church. It includes the story of Pentecost, the conversion of Paul, the spread of the Good News of Jesus and a dream.
The early church was not without challenges and an initial one was the need for all followers of Jesus to be Jews and adhere to the Jewish law. In other words, you had to be one of us before you could be one of us. But Peter had a dream. In it, Peter saw all the animals of the earth and a voice told him he could eat any of them. Peter said no because some were ritually unclean by Jewish law. But the voice said "what God has made clean, you must not call profane." Peter didn't understand at first, but some people appeared and asked him to come and talk to a man named Cornelius. He wasn't Jewish, but he'd had a vision of an angel telling him to call Peter and hear what he has to say. When Peter meets him and hears his story, he realizes the meaning of the dream: the message of Jesus is for all, Jews and Gentiles alike. As he's telling them this, "the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles" (Acts 10:45). Peter knew that the love of Jesus was for all. All.
Martin Luther King had a dream, that his children "will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character." Ghandi dreamed of a world of peace. Mandela dreamed of a world of love and respect.
I have those dreams, too, and I bet many others do. I also dream that one day we'll understand that unity and uniformity are not the same thing and that a world built on the uniquenesses of many is vastly more colourful, exciting and joyful than one of conformity and barren sameness. And I dream that we won't be afraid of that or fear the change that comes with it or, most especially, that we won't fear those who bring the change.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that it's all going to be good or easy, nor that we should just let things go unchallenged when they need to be. We should be part of it, engage it, learn from it and with it, and grow together.
God showed Peter that there are no barriers to the love of Jesus, there's no exclusivity and there's no favouritism. The gift of the Spirit - the power of love - is for all. Love shared, brings those dreams to life. Love shared, brings us through change. Love shared, brings us to each other. Perhaps, one day, we'll stop being "astounded" when it happens and know it for what it should be, our daily life.