So much different and so much the same!
That’s what I experienced in the worship gathering this morning in Canchungo, Guinea-Bissau.
We arrived around 10am to sing, with one simple drum being handed around to people to play from their seats. Everyone rhythmically clapped as worship songs were sung in Creole, then in one of the local tribal languages, then another, then another, with five total languages representing the tribes present.
The singing and dancing lasted for an hour before they announced birthdays, weddings and all upcoming events. Then there was more singing, then tithes and offerings, where everyone lined up and placed their money in bowls right up front. (No discreet tithe boxes here!)
There was very little familiar about it for me, and that just reminded me how different we are as people. I looked around and saw people who dress differently than me, who eat differently, who speak and think differently. These were people from a different culture, with different upbringings and different values.
So much different!
Then the pastor stood to give the message. And that pastor was me! I was asked to speak last minute by the pastor of the church, and at first, I wondered what I was going to talk about. I don’t know these people and they don’t know me. I can’t even speak their language.
But I realized something was the same. We all had the same Word of God. Yes, a different translation, but the same Word. And I realized in that moment why God gave me the passage I was to speak on:
There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. – Ephesians 4:4-6 (NASB)
And I realized how much the same we were. As we went through the passage, we celebrated what we all have in common. We are all in the same body of Christ (yes, different parts, but one body), and are all gifted by the same Holy Spirit (yes, different gifts, but by one Spirit). We all serve the same Lord. We are all baptized into Jesus Christ, and we all have the same God and Father. These are my brothers and sisters. We are all saved by the same kind of faith because the gospel message is universal.
So much the same!