Some items in the Old Testament Law express timeless moral principles, but others seem petty and arbitrary to us. In some Bible passages, they lay side-by-side. Here’s an example:
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your animals breed with a different kind; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed; nor shall you put on a garment made of two different materials. (Leviticus 19:18-19)
Jesus immortalized the command, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” as the Second Great Commandment, after the First, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” (Mark 12:29-31). But in the Leviticus Law passage the commandment, “You shall not put on a garment made of two different materials,” is just two lines away and seems to be just as important.
One of the things Jesus did in his teachings was to distinguish between the many things prescribed in the ancient Law, separating the eternal principals of righteousness from the much less important patterns of behavior and activity that vary from time to time and from place to place. He strongly reaffirmed the often-neglected challenge of loving others as you love yourself, but he swept into obscurity petty rules and regulations, like the one about wearing clothing with mixed fabrics, that no longer had meaning.
One of God’s goals in giving the ancient laws, like the one about mixing wool and linen in clothing, was to identify his chosen people as different from the people around them. When he told them not to mix fabrics, not to plant two kinds of seeds in a field and not to interbreed cattle (all in verse 19), he was providing them with daily-life metaphors of the fact that they were to be separated, significantly different from those who were not God’s chosen people.
But central to Jesus’ message was that a new day had come, a new phase of God’s salvation history. Now, Jews and Gentiles would be woven together into the Church, God’s body on earth. And this new people of God would boldly wear mixed fabrics, with strands from “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Revelation 7:9).
The Church has not always manifested its new liberty in mixing cultural and ethnic fabrics, often consisting of members who all act, think and look alike, dressed in drab, grey conformity. But we are fortunate to live in a time when spiritual mixed fabrics are more in style. ABC in particular is blessed to be a congregation of a variety of heritages, nationalities, races and life experiences.
On top of that, we are a very mobile group; people are always moving here and moving away. The congregation is quite different from decade to decade. That gives us another reason for reflection around Homecoming Sunday. For most of us, ABC is just one chapter in our spiritual story, one factor in our faith development, one of the diverse fabrics with which our lives are woven together.
I’d like to suggest an exercise. Please think about each of these factors that may have contributed to who you are as a person and as a Christian:
- What is your family faith heritage? Were your parents raised in the context of a church, and did they pass that value on to you?
- What are your earliest church memories: Joyful or somber? Judgmental or accepting? Multigenerational or age-segregated?
- Can you remember a particular Sunday School lesson? Sermon? Christian book or author that had an effect on you?
- Do you remember a moment when you were very aware of a particular sin in your life that felt like a heavy burden?
- Are you conscious of a moment when the light went on, when you felt God’s call and accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord?
- Is there one person who stands out as your faith mentor, who had the greatest spiritual influence on your life?
- Do you remember how your spiritual life changed when you went through life transitions: A family move? Going to college? Marriage? Parenthood? Divorce? Loss of a parent?
- Can you remember all the various churches you have been part of during your life and how each one contributed to your spiritual development?
At some point as you go through these questions, you will see how ABC fits in for you. We’re part of the garment of mixed fabrics that you wear so well today.
It’s obvious that each one of us has woven together materials from different places and types of experience, so every one of us will have a unique outfit. You look good. How about me?
See you at Homecoming!
— Pastor George Van Alstine