Every religious tradition has its skeletons and its saints, and sometimes they are the same people. Paul is warning his hearers not to count themselves better than their ancestors, for they all depend on the same rootstock ”“ a root that nourishes the olive tree or the grape vine we cling to as intimate connection to God as Creator of all. That root is why we are here, and it is also why the LDS church is here.
When General Convention shows up here just over 3 months from now, many of the volunteers and dispensers of hospitality will be our sisters and brothers from that tradition. Will we recognize their welcome as a product of the same root, or will we assume that they come from a different and unrecognizable species?
Complexity defines human beings and their relationships, which just might convince us of the otherness of God. Difference is part of God’s creativity, from the riotous diversity of the species of creation to the inner chaos of most human beings. Paul names it when he says he wants to do the right thing, but he does something else instead. Nevertheless, when people stay connected to that one rootstock, God can usually be found to bring something new and holy out of the mess.
Branches that seem radically different grow on the same tree and the same vine, even though we love to hate the ones who are not like us. We often in the church focus our attention on differences in reproductive customs and norms ”“ yet both the grape vine and the olive tree has multiple ways to be generative. Flowers can be fertilized by pollen from the same plant or another one. The fruit and seeds that result are eaten by birds and animals and left to grow far from the original plant, yet they are still related. The vine also generates new branches from its rootstock or from distant parts of its branches. But all those kinds of vines and branches are related, however they come about.