The Diversity of Gods Creation

by | Jun 18, 2023

Matthew 9;35-10;8

PRAYER: Holy and loving God, you send us out into the world not to make the world look like us, but to make it look like you. Remind us today of the diversity that is you, that you embrace all people and that when we let go of fear, we come closer to the Kingdom of God that you desire for all of us.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.

There was an alligator named Blanca. Blanca’s mother was living and well cared for at a zoo in (I believe) Texas. A female alligator will lay anywhere between 20-50 eggs at a time, so the zoo caretakers were very carefully watching the eggs to make sure they could document and care for any hatchlings that needed help.

Finally, one day the baby alligators began to emerge from their eggs, and they all seemed to be perfectly healthy. But there was something unusual about the baby alligator they called Blanca because, Blanca was an albino… which means that she didn’t have skin pigmentation to make her green like her brothers and sisters. Blanca was pure white.

While this is a rare occurrence, it does happen from time to time. There are estimated to be about 100-200 albino alligators in the world. But to have one in captivity was a unique opportunity to learn. The zookeepers took extra special care of Blanca. They made sure that she was healthy, they made sure that she had enough to eat and that she grew… all the things. Albino alligators tend to have a shorter lifespan in the wild, mostly because they are unable to be covert; they can’t blend in with their surroundings as well as the other alligators, which effects their ability to find prey. And their white skin is particularly dangerous to them in the sun as they burn much easier.

As Blanca got bigger, other zoos around the country started to reach out to the zoo to ask questions and learn more about Blanca, so they made the decision to take Blanca out on tour to other zoos to teach people about alligators and nature, to provide education about conservation and the importance of caring for the environment, our eco-systems. Blanca became something of a celebrity as she toured all over the country.

Everywhere she went, she drew crowds. People were curious about seeing this marvel of nature – this albino alligator. And people were amazed; they truly were. Many of the zoos publicized their special exhibit by reaching out to schools and local churches. So many church groups came and marveled at this white alligator, and how God’s creation is just so amazing. They walked away from the exhibit having a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the diversity of God’s creation.

In all the tours, in all the zoos that Blanca visited… In all the places in which everyone was amazed by her unique appearance, not once – ever in all the places she went – not once did anyone say, “That alligator is an abomination and should be green.” No one tried to break into her enclosure and pour green paint over her. Not once did anyone say that God only makes green alligators. Never.

When it comes to diversity, it turns out that human beings are often completely open and awestruck by the reality of just how much possibility exists within God’s creation… except when it comes to diversity within human beings themselves.

I tell you that story because in our reading today, we see Jesus sending his disciples out to share the message of the Gospel with the people of Israel. He tells them not to take anything with them, but to trust in the hospitality of the people to whom they go. Then he warns them about the potential for rejection and persecution they will endure. He tells them that people will be so closed-minded about their message of peace and God’s love that they will resort to violence

Let’s be very clear here: the message that Jesus is sending his disciples out with is not groundbreaking. It’s not new. It is a message that the people of Israel have been hearing since Genesis. When Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is near, he’s talking about compassion and empathy, he’s talking about community and hospitality. There will be a time in which the disciples are sent out beyond Israel, but first they need to get their own hospitality in order. Because the people of Israel have lost their way. The people of Israel need to first see the beauty and diversity within themselves and then see others in a light of Christ-like love.

Jesus continues, “As you go, make this announcement: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, and throw out demons.”

All of these tasks may seem – at first glance – to be completely outside of our abilities. I don’t know about you, but if I could heal the sick, if I could take away cancer, you’d better believe I would. There’s a deeper meaning to what Jesus is telling his disciples to do here. All of these things, from sickness, mourning, separation from one another, these are all things that keep us from living fully into the kingdom of God that is near. Most scholars believe that what people of that time called demonic possession (what the Bible refers to as demonic possession) would be more correctly viewed as mental illness today. These are things that will – if we let them – preoccupy us, weigh us down, and prevent us from seeing God’s love, God’s presence in our lives. Healing happens when we refuse to let these things take control of us and darken our souls. Jesus is telling his disciples to see what he did, to learn from what he did, to reintroduce the Kingdom of God back to the people who have lost their way, back to the people who have stopped seeing their neighbor as beloved, who have stopped seeing others as examples of God’s amazing diversity in creation. The disciples are given a task to bring hope, to bring kindness, to offer solidarity with a hurting people, to offer peace.

When people see Blanca the albino alligator, they’re seeing the incredible gifts of God, the diversity of God’s creation. Jesus wants the Israelites – and ultimately everyone else, all of us to see humanity in the same way – as precious, as beloved, as unique and beautiful. The 139th Psalm reminds us, “You are the one who created my innermost parts; you knit me together while I was still in my mother’s womb”. God knit together Blanca the albino alligator as wonderfully unique, isn’t it reasonable that God took the same care in creating all those who may be different from you and me? Humanity is wonderfully diverse, and the question we have to ask ourselves is are we allowing ourselves to see it, or are we like those people Jesus warned his disciples about that “will hand you over to councils and they will beat you in their synagogues. They will haul you in front of governors and even kings.

The kingdom of God is an invitation to live fully. The disciples watched Jesus offer hope and compassion, kindness in the face of dismay and fear. They saw the miracle of new life being offered in Jesus’ words that the Kingdom of God is at hand. It isn’t just about belief, it’s about acting on that belief and not allowing the shackles of life – the disease, the oppression, the hopelessness, the mental illness, the fear to rule our lives.

What ways might we offer that hope, what ways might we offer new life in today’s day and age? In today’s world, we are called to answer for the sin of racial injustice. Jesus would surely talk about – in today’s context, economic injustice. It’s certainly nothing new, but lately we have been hearing so much hatred and fear thrown at members of the LGBTQ+ community. People who are – again going back to the 139th Psalm, knit together while still in their mother’s womb – wonderfully created by the same God who created Blanca, who created us.

There is a line in today’s reading that we should pay particular attention to. Starting in verse 14, it says, “If anyone refuses to welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet as you leave that house or city. I assure you that it will be more bearable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on Judgment Day than it will be for that city.”

For as long as I can remember, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah has been a rallying cry for people who equate the LGBTQ community with the wrath, the anger of God. If you read the story through a very narrow lens, you could believe that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because there was homosexual activity going on. It just isn’t the case though, and I would encourage you this week to open up your Bibles and read Genesis 19, and then read Ezekiel 16. The anger that God had toward Sodom and Gomorrah is plain to see, and it had nothing to do with homosexuality and everything to do with the lack of hospitality, with the town leaders failing to provide a welcome to the stranger and a place of safety. The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah lies in not aiding this poor band of travelers. The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah is seen in how we treat others, and not in how others love one another.

The injustice our culture throws at members of the LGBTQ+ community is certainly nothing new, but I daresay that over the last few years, it has gotten far worse with so many lies being told about people, their intentions, the name calling, accusations, when all they are seeking is to be allowed to be their true selves, to live into the diverse identity of themselves. And that can begin with us taking a wider view of the enormity of God’s creation. That can begin with us recognizing and appreciating the Blancas of the world, that God’s creation is not binary, black and white, this way or that way only. God’s creation – and the people within it – are wonderfully and beautifully diverse, in ways that we are just now coming to better understand and embrace.

The people that Jesus warned his disciples about – the ones he said wouldn’t listen and would beat them in their synagogues, are the very ones who today would stand up and say that there’s some vast conspiracy, who have stood at school board meetings – I’ve heard them myself at Del Val and Hunterdon Central claiming that their religious rights are somehow being trounced upon because of the existence of a diverse humanity created by God. They are the very ones who make up lies about how children are systematically being mutilated by some non-existent agenda.

In our Christian journey, it seems to me that we have a choice between seeing the world’s vast diversity and giving praise to God for it – or closing our eyes and our minds to the beauty and diversity that God creates in each of us and living instead in darkness fueled by fear.

Jocelyn Gee is a climate activist and public speaker who wrote an extensive article about the limitations of our binary thinking in nature as well as in people. I’ll bet she’d be a fan of Blanca the alligator. She writes, “To use binary models when producing our research, social systems, legislation, and environmentalism is to misrepresent the complex reality of humanity and our existence within nature. The fact is that transness and nonbinary existence add color, shading, dimension, perspective, motion, and more to our picture of nature and to our lives.”

A faith journey is a learning process. When the disciples were sent out, they learned that there is no short-cut or step-by-step process to follow to find and make disciples. Instead, they learned to widen their vision and see humanity as Jesus saw it – with compassion, with grace, with love. They found their understanding of the world, the Kingdom of God come near to be ever-expanding, ever welcoming, ever embracing. They found that hope was possible, and they found that God’s creation (and all of humanity is included within that)… is wonderfully and perfectly made in its vast diversity. When we fully embrace that, we come closer and closer to God’s kingdom.

To God be the glory