Returning to my church today was maravilloso. I hadn’t realized how much I missed it over break until I walked in and found myself smiling all morning because I was glad to be there. (Sometimes it is very difficult for this night owl coffee-addict to smile before 11 AM—regardless of the circumstances!)
Many of you know that my church is a bilingual (Spanish/English) congregation. It’s not a “Hispanic” church per se, but a living out of the Revelation vision of heaven:
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’
My church has members who are Anglo-American, African-American, Hispanic American, and multi-racial American. Some of the members have immigration papers; some do not. Some were born in the United States; some (including me!) were not. Some prefer to speak English; some prefer Spanish; and some—especially the children—move gracefully between the two languages. It’s a multinational church—people hail from all different nations (contrary to popular belief, not all U.S. immigrants are from Mexico). It’s not “every nation, tribe, and tongue,” but with God’s grace we are working on it!
We are a deliberately multi-cultural congregation because we believe that God desires us to worship on earth as it is in heaven. All Christian worship connects us to every other Christian, living and dead, as we prepare to worship God eternally. This is why we pray, “And so, with all the people on earth and all the company of heaven, we praise Your Name and join their unending hymn: ‘Holy, holy, holy.'”
Unfortunately, not all churches are blessed with this vision/reality of inclusion. One multicultural pastor, Rodney Woo, says this about the worship of the church here on earth:
“My main passion is to get people ready for heaven. I think a lot of our people are going to go into culture shock when they get to heaven, and they get to sit next to somebody that they didn’t maybe sit with while they were here on earth. So we’re trying to get them acclimated a little bit.”
If you’ve ever traveled outside of the U.S.—or to a part of the city/country where people are different from you—then you know what culture shock is like. As my friend Hope said when she got off the plane in Madrid,
“Wow! It’s just like being in a foreign country!”
And as a man from my parents’ church said when he landed in Greece:
“Wow! There sure are a lot of foreigners here!”
Culture shock on earth can be funny. Culture shock in heaven is not.