One year when our pastor was on vacation, I was asked to preach for him. I was in college at the time. I had gone down to the church office to give the secretary my scripture and sermon title.
As I was coming out of the church office, I ran into Boston Burke, the church janitor and groundskeeper. He was a very nice man who kept the church and the grounds in immaculate condition. Everyone bragged about the grounds of our church, which sits on Main Street in my hometown.
As he and I chatted, I mentioned to him that I was preaching on Sunday and that I hoped he would attend. He looked at me and asked, “Would I be allowed to attend this church?”
I had not even thought about the fact that we were a segregated church and I was suddenly filled with a profound sadness that this humble and loving African-American man had to ask such a question as this.
I said to him, “Boston, my friend, you certainly are allowed to attend and I will personally walk you to a pew to sit in.”
I remember that experience, and many others, every time I read from the Baptismal liturgy that reminds us that Jesus has opened the door of the church and his Kingdom to “people of all ages, nations and races.” I rejoice in serving a church now where people of all races attend and all are part of the family. We no longer distinguish each other by race, for we have embraced the joy of knowing that “in Christ there is neither male nor female, white nor black, Jew or Gentile.”
When barriers come down, and we live into the reality that we are all one in Christ, then the unity of the Kingdom becomes real and powerfully present in the church and in the world. It is indeed a pleasant thing to God when “God’s children dwell in unity with one another.”
Let us pray: O God, forgive us of the sin of prejudice and open our hearts and minds, that we might see in one another, the glory of your presence. Help us to know that, as we are all welcomed in your heart, we are to likewise, open our hearts to all of your children. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.