From the East and the West and the North and the South
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those God redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. – Psalm 107:2-3 (NRSV)
I was raised in the far north, the it’s-not-Canada-but-you-can-see-it-from-here north. In young adulthood, I traveled to Georgia for the first time on a work trip.
“My, what lovely homes!” I enthused to my hostess as she drove me around town. “Yes,” she drawled. “Of course, when Sherman marched to the sea, he missed us.”
I honestly had to think for a moment before I even knew what she was talking about. To a northern girl, Sherman’s march to the sea was ancient history. To my southern hostess, the devastation of the Civil War was part of her daily lived experience.
Where we come from forms us differently, and those differences are often exploited by people in power to keep us separate from one another. The Southern Strategy, for example—a ploy to keep the poor of all races fighting each other instead of the system that disempowers them—continues to mold our thinking and our actions.
In many churches, we are called to the communion table “from the east and the west and the north and the south.” The differences we bring are not erased. We are still from wherever we are from. But gathered at Christ’s table, our differences strengthen us instead of dividing us.
Brother Christ, thank you for redeeming us from trouble and gathering us in from all the directions for the feast you prepare for us. Amen.
Jennifer Garrison Brownell is pastor of Vancouver United Church of Christ. Her writing appears in the collection, The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms For the Struggle, available from The Pilgrim Press.