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The Mestizo Symphony of Heaven

Our Christian destination is a heavenly symphony of praise from every tongue, tribe, and nation

section rehearsals. It is not easy to sit mixed together when one section blasts its part out of an exaggerated sense of importance. The truth is, it is hard to be in tune with Christ when have tuned each other out for so long.

Needless to say, our ethnic section rehearsals usually started not in order to nourish a diversity of styles but in order to exclude other voices. At the origin of our section rehearsals lies sin; their ending requires confession and repentance–and end they must. The future is symphonic. Heaven is mestizo. Section rehearsals are at best provisional.

Hope of Heaven
For the past 10 years or so I have been part of a congregation that has sought to leave the safety of the section rehearsal for the challenge of symphony. At times it has seemed like a bit of heaven below–ethnically and economically diverse membership, multicultural and bilingual worship. At other times it has seemed like foolishness. Mestizaje too easily turns into a lazy celebration of diversity that short-circuits repentance and transformation. The cost of reconciliation is high, higher than I realized when I first started preaching about the destination of the Christian journey.

Why bother? Because in Christ we have a living hope. Hope pertains to a future good that is hard but possible to attain. The mestizo future that God promises us is very good; it is better than the little white rural chapel, the gentrified urban congregation, or the postmodern suburban multiplex. Yes, it is difficult to attain; the dangers of syncretism, ethnocentrism, or just old-fashioned Pelagianism are very real. And yet the goal is attainable with the divine assistance of Jesus. I close by citing a hymn written by Justo Gonzalez for the 500th anniversary of the painful birth of the Americas; a hymn that expresses in verse the hope I have for the mestizo church.

From all four of earth’s faraway corners,
flows together the blood of all races
in this people who sing of their trials,
    in this people who cry of their faith;
hardy blood that was brought by the Spanish,
noble blood of the suffering Indian,
blood of slaves who stood heavy oppression,
    all the blood that was bought on the cross.

From all four of earth’s faraway corners,
from the flowering meadows of Cuba,
from African coast and all Asia,
    from Borinquen, Quisqueya, Aztlán,
God in secret has long been designing
to this moment so blessed to bring us,
bind us all to the same destination
    and a kingdom create of us all.

In all four of earth’s faraway corners
sin is building embittering barriers;
but our faith has no fear of such borders,
    we know justice and peace will prevail.
To all four of earth’s faraway corners
we’re a people who point to tomorrow,
when the world, living sovereign and peaceful,
    is united in bonds of God’s love.