A few years back, when Gorbachev and Reagan chatted over a wall that fell, the Soviet Union ceased to be and we brought out sketch pads and sharpened our pencils and carved the map of Europe into fields of responsibility for the Church of the Nazarene. We called them things like the CIS, which meant the Commonwealth of Independent States and SE, which meant Southeastern Europe. And, we gathered in countries, like an artist gathers his paints to make a masterpiece. Then, a few short years later, we pulled out erasers and pencils again to re-draw some lines that included Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, and Hungary. Southeastern Europe became the Central Europe Field.
11 nations. 10 distinct and separate languages. 2 time zones. 2 major world religions. 3 streams of Christian theology.
Sometimes people wonder why the Scandinavians are hanging out in the Balkans. It seems an unlikely union, as if Monet and DaVinci merged their easel and their ceilings, dipped their brushes into the same pot, and painted.
The Scandinavian countries, with their timely schedules and their efficient governments and their strong economies connected to Poland and Hungary. Poland with its strong and growing economy. Hungary, with its roaring pride. Together, they could be called the Baltic countries. And, Hungary’s story is part of Transylvania, which becomes Romania, which ebbs and flows into the Balkan peninsula, where every event is celebrated with traditional dance and the road to anything has dips and detours.
It is an unlikely masterpiece.
But then, Pastor KajOve Bollerup, the Dane, walks to the front and he opens his Bible and speaks to us about the diversity of God’s face.
This is no mere recognition that some of us are dark haired and brown eyed while others are blond. It is not a commentary on the probability of a Jewish-looking Jesus. This is a theological move into culture and one begins to grasp the very edges of a fascinating tapestry. We easily perceive God through our own cultural eyes, so much so, that we forget that His face has hundreds of facets – planes and shadows that we have never considered. At minimum, our God-box must be as big as all of the varied, complex cultures of our globe. In truth, the God concept blows the walls off of our God-box. Unfathomable. Complex. Beautiful. Diverse.
We need each other.
We need God.
We need each other to break down the boxes that we build for God. Our tendency is to understand Him through our own cultural eyes and this becomes a blurring of what is Biblical with what is cultural.
We need God to give us the capacity to think these deeper thoughts, to reveal Himself in images that we can grasp.
Then, the pastor from Denmark said, ‘The Church is an impossible human endeavor.’
And our hearts swelled and resonated. True words, Pastor. The very idea that we, with our prejudices, our weaknesses, our sins, our selfishness, our wars and our wailings could ever function as One body, in unity, as a blessing to the World, is utter nonsense.
Utter nonsense drafted, not carved on stone, on stone hearts, on hearts made soft by a Holy wind that blows down walls, that gathers people in, that erases walls, that sketches our story together in fragmented, high definition detail to speak peace, forgiveness, rescue, redemption in the voices of nations that together become the face of God.
And this is the body of the Christ. Without walls.
photo credit Atanas Vasiliev