Distinctions Without Difference
If a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Have a seat here, please,’ while to the one who is poor you say, ‘Stand there’ or ‘Sit at my feet,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? – James 2:2-4 (NRSV)
If you want to know who the core of a congregation is, look at who shows up to church on a rainy, miserable, November Sunday. Alternately, see who shows up on a beautiful, sunny, July Sunday that falls on the last day of the traveling fair that has a petting zoo and plenty of parking.
For our 9:00 a.m. service, that core is composed mostly of two groups: parents of young children, and people who are living on the streets. They have a lot in common: nobody slept very well the night before, everybody heads straight for the coffee, and each and every person has been looking forward to an hour when they will—at long last—be treated like just another regular human being.
That’s a beautiful thing about worship, it levels the distinctions between people.
Whether they come dragging a rolling suitcase filled with all their worldly possessions or a $500 diaper bag filled with what looks like it contains a non-trivial percentage of all their worldly possessions, people want the same thing. When they arrive to church, they just want to be one person among the people of God.
Also, coffee. Coffee is non-negotiable.
O God, in worship before You, we are all equals. May our community reflect that equality and justice, to better glorify You.
John Edgerton is Associate Pastor at Old South Church in Boston, Massachusetts.