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Friday, February 2, 2018

Different Worlds

My son Aidan makes his living as a musician in Vancouver. He has a regular gig in the lounge at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, a high-end downtown spot with a stunning view of the water and mountains.

We went to hear Aidan play while visiting him and his brother after Christmas. I was perusing the beverage menu looking for something that wasn’t too overpriced, when I came across this:
                        Balvenie 50                                       2600/5200

From the beverage menu
Pacific Rim Hotel
“Hm,” I wondered. “What does that mean?” I realized fairly quickly that it meant that a 1 oz. glass of Balvenie 50-year old Single Malt Scotch Whiskey sells for $2600.00!! If you want a double, it’s $5200.

“Do people order this?” I asked my son. “All the time,” he answered.

Clearly, there are people who will shell out $2600 for an ounce of Scotch. But, equally clearly, they live in a different world than I do, a world I can scarcely comprehend.

But it’s becoming more and more like that, isn’t it? For all our connectedness, we feel like there are worlds of people out there whose lives we can’t even imagine. We are becoming more and more isolated from one another, inhabiting social, economic, political and cultural bubbles, and interacting less and less with people from other worlds.

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time was Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.  Vance is a Yale educated lawyer, but he grew up in the subculture of Appalachia. His grandfather had moved from Kentucky to Ohio in the 1960s to work in a
factory, but he brought with him his tight-knit hillbilly culture which is the world his grandson J. D. grew up in.

Vance wrote the book to provide a window into the much-maligned and mocked way of life. Reading it really helped me understand people I am quick to dismiss – and to understand why those people helped to propel Donald Trump to the White House.

Our churches say that they welcome everyone. But if that is true, why do our congregations look so much the same? It hard to venture out beyond our comfort zones and encounter people from worlds very different from our own. It takes courage, effort and imagination.

But the ability to do that will become a more and more vital skill, not only to save our churches, to but keep our world liveable.  

As Christians, we need to reach out to people from different worlds. But the reason we must do that is that we affirm another, more profound truth: for all our differences, we all inhabit the same world.

“We are not alone. We live in God’s world.”

This is the crucial and counter-cultural message of the Gospel. In spite of everything that divides us, we share the most important things in common:

We are all made in the image of God.

We are all broken (by what Scripture calls sin).

We are all in need of healing.

We are all loved and forgiven through Christ.

We persist in believing and affirming these things as true of all people, whether they share our faith or not. And these beliefs shape how we live and behave.  

As our world becomes more dangerously fragmented, Christians have a sacred calling to both to encounter people from different worlds, and to announce that we all live in God’s world.

All of us, Even those who can order a $2600 glass of Scotch.