Wednesday Word: E Pluribus Unum
We are all familiar with this Latin phrase which is found on our coins and means, "Out of many, one."
It fits as our national motto because this country was, and is, made up of people from North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia (and maybe even a few Australians). There is, of course, an unfortunate history of groups abusing and enslaving others, and we have far to go before we reach the ideal that "every [person] is created equal."
In a sense, this could also be the motto of the Church. As Paul wrote in Galatians, "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus," and in Ephesians, "There is one body and on Spirit . . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism . . ." Like our country's founders recognized that from many countries came one, Paul recognized that many people make up the one body of Christ.
And yet, this desire for unity, the desire to be one, oftentimes seems unattainable due to our own sins of racism, greed, oppression, hatred, theological warfare, and the like. During a service recently, a former Montana colleague was reading a prayer out of the BCP that mentions "our unhappy divisions." He misread it as, "our happy divisions." And while that was a slip of the tongue, he mused that his slip might be more correct -- that we really are more happy when we are divided.
And I read in another place that "we have entirely too much pluribus and not enough unum."
We are a divided people -- politically, socially, economically, and theologically.
Jesus once told his followers, "For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." That's not because two, three, or more people create something holy and sacred; it's because we have a tendency to not get along and we need Jesus among us.
None of this means that we need to bury our disagreements in an attempt to become some sort of unified cult. We can disagree. We can have differences of opinion. The trick is to do it respectfully. The trick is to do it while holding the other up, rather than working to take down.
We are a divided people -- politically, socially, economically, and theologically. Among these happy divisions, are we willing to invite Jesus into our midst? Among these happy divisions, are we willing to align ourselves with gospel values? Among our happy divisions, are we willing to keep Jesus front and center? Because it most certainly is the case that, despite our pluribus, Jesus is our unum.