Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (CEB)
26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to abolish things that are, 29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30 In contrast, God is why you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
I belong to an indigenous community that inhabits the mountains and hills in the northern part of the Philippines. Our ancestors were labeled as barbaric, demonic, ignorant, and foolish by Spanish and American colonizers and missionaries. Many of our people still suffer discrimination from the lowlanders. But even in our struggle for inclusion, our community has often experienced the grace of God through the ministry of the church. Pastors, deaconesses, civic leaders, and good citizens have come among us, embodying the truth that God’s Table is a celebration of grace for all. God invites all because God is love and transcends all.
This reminds me of brother Cosme Haban, a member of a United Methodist congregation in our area. After an intense discussion in his congregation about the possible split in the denomination, Cosme offered this closing prayer: “Almighty God, bind us closer in the midst of our differences. We pray that no child of yours will be discriminated against because of who they are. Give us a bigger vision and a wider embrace, lest we oppress others. Create in us hearts wide enough to accept and love without discrimination as shown by your Son Jesus Christ. In his name, we pray. Amen.”
The invitations to be God’s sacrament to the world — to share the grace we have received — demands inclusion. It would be truly unfortunate if we claim to share the good news of God’s grace through the Eucharist but continue to practice forms of discrimination. Some arrogantly claim the right to declare who gets to sit and eat at God’s banquet. But God’s amazing grace demands inclusion because every person has within them the inextinguishable divine mark.
Almighty God, create in us hearts wide enough to accept and love without discrimination as shown by your Son Jesus Christ. In his name, we pray. Amen.
By Joel Bengbeng*, The Upper Room Disciplines 2023, page 44.
*Elder in the Northwest Philippines Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.