Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ.” Has Christ been divided into factions? Was I, Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul? Of course not! (1 Corinthians 1:12-13)
Read: 2 Chronicles 35:1-36:23, 1 Corinthians 1:1-17, Psalm 27:1-6, Proverbs 20:20-21
Relate: I am not a foodie. Even though I love to go out to eat and anytime I can, one of the first things I do in a new city is visit Yelp and Tripadvisor and make it a point to enjoy at least two or three of their top ten restaurants in the area. I love trying new things and even if it isn’t my favorite I enjoy being able to say, “I’ve had that.” I have been able to experience a few new foods lately including beyran soup. This is actually a breakfast specialty made of lamb and rice and garlic and pepper and pepper and… did I say pepper? I really enjoyed it but my stomach has been giving me a little trouble for the past week or so and this certainly did not help. I have also tried for the first time katmer. A general description would be to say it is like baklava except not as sweet and with a slightly creamy taste. Beyond that it is really hard to describe to someone who has never tried it. It can be served for breakfast or as a desert. Actually, my portion was big enough I ate only a bit more than half in the morning and the had rest as a midafternoon snack. I have had kebap many times in many places but lately for the first time I was introduced to kusleme. I have now had it four times in the past two weeks but the first time was at a little restaurant so famous their entire wall is lined with pictures of famous people who have come there to get it.
As fun as all that is, most of the time where I most like to eat is at a buffet. I know, I know. With that statement every true foodie has stuck their nose up in the air and are now clicking away to go read a “real” food review. Good riddance. One thing that is pretty much a guarantee is that at a buffet, you will never eat the best of any one particular thing. Whether it is chinese or pizza, Golden Corral or Ponderosa, each and every entrée can be found elsewhere as a menu item that will be fresher and tastier. What makes a buffet so great is the sheer variety of items to chose from.
Now imagine I went out to eat at a buffet along with three other people. I have been craving fish so I go through and pull out every (imitation) clam and crab entrée I can find along with an abundance of shrimp and sushi. I sit down and see that the guy next to me had a plate full of beef and steak type items. I look at him and say, “How can you eat all that? You might as well just go grab a cow and cut it open.” A third friend sits down on my other side looks at my plate and says, “That really isn’t healthy. I have a cousin who tried eating shellfish and ended up in the emergency room where they pumped his stomach. You’re gonna kill yourself.” Of course the fourth person in our party is a vegetarian. She doesn’t say anything out loud. She just sniffs condescendingly, mutters something indecipherable that included the word murderers, and delicately starts to cut up her carrots.
React: The Church universal is in many ways like a buffet. There is an abundance of diversity and variety and each individual church is unique in their own right. When I visit a new church, there will almost always be some things I like and others I don’t. That’s OK. Someone else might go to the same church only to like and not like it for the exact opposite reasons. We all of us bring our own unique abilities and preferences and cultural background into the task of advancing the Kingdom of God. For this reason, an abundance of churches and a variety of denominations is a good thing. If you are the scream and shout and dance around type, join a charismatic church. If you are into systems and organizations and mission, become a methodist. If you walk around as though you had a permanent wedgie and would never do ______ (pick your cultural “sin”) because it just might lead you down a slippery slope to dancing… I have a baptist church just for you. We all like to pump up our own worship preference or pet dogma and look down our noses at others. Two thousand years into this thing and we are all still saying, “I follow Paul (Hillsongs)” or “I follow Peter (Fred Hammond)” or “I follow Apollos (Hymns)” or “I follow Christ (we don’t use instruments)” God help us all. How much further would we be able to do if we could only get along? How much quicker would the Kingdom advance if we treated the Church like we do a buffet: take what you like and leave the rest for someone else.
Forgive me for the times I have acted like a spiritual foodie. Forgive me for the times I have focused on how much better one is over another or why it is oh so good to take this but how could anyone choose that? For all those times I have been critical of things that are not sin but only cultural preferences, forgive me. Help me to love the Church, *all* the Church. Help me to love the Pauls and Peters and others even if it is not how I best respond to You. Please, please don’t ever let me stand in the way of what You are doing in another’s heart.