Gobsmacked is one of those British words that once you hear it spoken, you understand its meaning and importance. To be gobsmacked is to be arrested by something; startled into the presence of a glaring reality. On this trip across the United States, I have been gobsmacked by the diversity of humanity which inhabits our country. Yesterday I sat across from a Japanese family bringing their daughter here to see Oregon State University. Their home is California. Almost every morning at our “complimentary” breakfast in whatever hotel we are staying at, you can hear more than one language being spoken. At a store this week I had an encounter with a lovely Muslim woman in a hijab; in another city the motel owner was Hispanic and in another the owner was East Indian. Just as we have been doing, reveling in the beauty of the National Parks, so we have met African American, Chinese American, Japanese American and European American families mingling with people visiting from all over the world to catch views of nature’s wonders. Native Americans, our most gracious hosts in many places, have taught us so much about the way this country was long before the white people came to claim it. I have wept over the abuses they suffered because they exhibited a diverse culture from those who came from across the sea.
This week I found a quote from Wade Davis (Anthropologist / Ethnographer and Photographer with The National Geographic) “The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you, they are unique manifestations of the human spirit”.
I have grown up in this country; my family tree is interwoven with Scots Irish and Swiss German immigrants who married Native Americans and perhaps slaves /African Americans to create the unique mix that forms my DNA. I often forget this fact as I sometimes try to put other cultures in a box with labels that disparage the essence of who they are. Yet, I am a composite of those very cultures. I am a unique manifestation of the human spirit, just as they are. If I respect the God who created us all in his/her image, then respect is called for in my dealings with others, no matter how different they are.
All of this has been brought to mind by the news over the past week. I believe that Jesus and the great teachers in every religion hold us to a high standard as we deal with one another. Jesus, who treated every person whether Jew or Gentile, Samaritan or Roman soldier, woman, man or child with equal honor would condemn any show of bigotry, or hatred against another person.
Sometimes people come to me after I preach and tell me that a particular point in the sermon has made them think about something they need to do. I always say to them: “The preacher always preaches to herself first!” There is very little that I preach or write about that I don’t need to hear myself first. And so it is with this…