I don’t speak much Greek or Spanish, but I can understand some of it when it is spoken at me: same with Irish and Hebrew. So I struggled through the sermon today that was in Greek, with Spanish highlights. I kept hearing over (in Greek) and over (in Spanish) that God became Man. Then there was something about Ethnicity. Then there was a list of places (that included New York) and something about where ever you go, “Kyrie Eleison”.
And what I got out of that sermon is the exact reason I will go to Liturgy in another country, in another language (or, in this case, two other languages) unknown to me: and still find myself at home. God became one of us… and there we are striving to be like him together. It’s really hard to do that alone but even with a language barrier, it is so common a striving among humans that we can do it together.
Of course the Incarnation, itself, is specific and not general: God didn’t just become “man” as in “mankind” but rather a specific man, in a specific time and place, with a family and a scar from his circumcision, and a specific accent when he spoke Aramaic or Greek or when he struggled to speak Latin with Roman Officials. Curiously it is this specificity that makes him universal. We know, not just “deep in our hearts” but even in the most shallow parts of our human stupidity that we are far more alike than different. Jesus shares so much in common with me, with you in spite of how many little things we could point out as different. We know that he is our brother as another human being – different in race, class, language, culture… but one of us.
The “one of us”, the commonality is so great that it is the fact that this “one of us” is God – vastly different, that saves us. God now in his person shares this One of Us-ness that makes us all hold together.
The things that bind us together are vastly greater than the things that divide us. Our Humanity is so very much more real and solid than our little peculiar personalities and histories. God does not need to be an imbecile to save other imbeciles or a Republican to save other Republicans or an African to save Africans or a woman to save women. God needs to be one of us – a nice Jewish boy with a pushy mother and a bunch of fishermen buddies a few good stories and a couple of good jokes and a glass of wine.
And we all get saved.
What is most surprising all of this is that God – and the rest of us – get to hold on to those things that divide us. God is still a nice Jewish boy with a pushy mother and a bunch of fishermen buddies a few good stories and a couple of good jokes and a glass of wine. And I still get to be a good Southern White-bread Boy and you get to be whatever you are.
And we all get saved.
It’s the things that don’t matter that get left behind.