E Pluribus Unum…

“…out of many, one…”

A few years ago, I had opportunity to travel to New York City. Some close friends had moved to Long Island and invited me out for a visit. Being that the Big Apple was only a train ride away, I set aside a day and ventured in to see the sights.

It was surreal to see so many iconic places in person…

The Empire State Building…

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The New York Library…

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Central Station…

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The 911 Memorial…

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And that amazing city skyline…

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One afternoon, my friends ventured into the city with me. Having been descendants of immigrants, we were intrigued to visit both Liberty and Ellis Island. After standing nearly an hour in line, being thoroughly questioned, and systematically screened, we boarded a small boat.

The wind whipped through our hair, carrying with it conversations from an array of dialects and tongues. As everyone looked back across the Hudson River, I was struck by the scene…

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The cityscape sparkled in the sunshine, tourists from all over the world gazed back at the view, and Ol’ Glory waved as if to attest to the irony of the situation. E Pluribus Unum… “out of many, one…”

Though our nation inherited many political and societal structures from Britain, the culture has been shaped by immigrants. People who have brought with them traditions, customs, and creativity which has contributed to the prosperity and strength of us all. People who yearned for opportunity, freedom, the chance at a different life… The words of Emma Lazarus, have rung true… Lady Liberty has been the Mother of Exiles…

‘Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!’ cries she

With silent lips. ‘Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’”*

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Our nation has endured so many things… Breaking free from colonial rule, horrific civil war, economic depressions, world wars, equal rights for all… Yet, despite such groundbreaking successes that brought us together, we have become increasingly divided, polarized. No longer do we know how to be friends with those different from us… with those on the other-side-of-the-aisle, much less the other side of town! We don’t know how to have constructive conversations…

Rather than celebrating and welcoming opposing views, seeing them as bringing greater clarity, a catalyst for better solutions, or providing opportunity for growth, we withdraw from them… seeing them as “wrong,” “bad,” or simply an obstacle to our own comfort. We’re quick to scurry back to our little hovels full of people just like us, who we perceive to agree with us. We take offense at being misunderstood ourselves…

But this kind of thinking will get us nowhere. You need only turn on the TV, the radio, or your smart phone to see the fruit of such thinking… We cannot continue to label one another and write people off for the sake of our own ego… In so doing, many have villainized would-be friends.

The Apostle Paul knew there would be conflict in the midst of diversity. In fact, the church is the perfect example of that. God has drawn people from all walks of life to His family… wealthy and poor, presidents and slaves, the scientific and the artist, the guard and the prisoner, the doctor and the sick… Amidst such a diverse group, there would be differences of opinions, perspectives, biases, and sore-spots…

He reminded us of how our own body works…

“Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still ONE body…

We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large integrated life…

The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful.

I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together

…If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.

But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own.

The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.”**

It seems to me these are wise words which would be helpful not only for the church, but also for the nation. That we would see each other as a valuable, significant part of the success of us all.

I want to leave you with a link to Mandisa’s new song entitled We All Bleed The Same… An insightful reflection that when taken to heart has the power to change the world.

We All Bleed The Same

pcs: Sarah Coffey 

*From The New Colossus

**Excerpts from 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 in The Message translation

2 thoughts on “E Pluribus Unum…

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