I think it’s safe to say everyone loves Sesame Street. How can you resist those furry little creatures, that big yellow bird, and even that grouch in a trashcan? One trait that marks Sesame Street is diversity. Sesame Street displays a wide variety of people and creatures. Hispanics, Asians, African-Americans, monsters, big birds, fairies, snuffleupaguses…all crowd the street, making for a fun show that demonstrates unity and diversity.
One movie we watch around my house is Follow That Bird. It’s a feature film with Big Bird, and in this movie, we see the message of Sesame Street clearly underscored. In Follow That Bird, a social worker discovers Big Bird lives on Sesame Street without any bird family or friends around. So the well-meaning social worker finds a bird home for Big Bird and sends him off to live with his new family.
When Big Bird arrives, he meets his new family, the Dodos. He tries his best to fit in with them, but let’s be honest, they’re dodo birds. It doesn’t work. As much as Big Bird tries to belong, he just can’t make the relationship work. But Big Bird has an epiphany and the point of the movie emerges. Here’s what Big Bird realizes. He realizes he had a family all along. He had a place where he fit. It was Sesame Street, and it didn’t matter that he was the only big bird around. The only thing that mattered was the love everyone had for one another. Love made them all family, not ethnicity, not background, and not even species in the case of Sesame Street. And that’s what’s so wonderful about Sesame Street, extreme diversity coupled with perfect unity. It’s a beautiful picture.
The problem is (spoiler alert) Sesame Street isn’t real. In our world, differences collide and explode. Tribes war, and individuals fight. Differences alienate us. Insiders mock outsiders for their uniqueness. People don’t see eye-to-eye, and one’s past seems inescapable.
But the unity we see on Sesame Street is not impossible. It is not just some distant dream. There is a place where the dynamics of Sesame Street come true. That place is the Church. God made the church to be the place where extreme diversity meets with perfect unity. The church should be the real world Sesame Street.
Paul writes that within the church, “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11 ESV). Consider the magnitude of what Paul is saying. In the church, the Jew and Gentile divide evaporates. That’s astounding! The Jewish nation had experienced tension with anyone who did not follow their customs and laws. They sought distinction and separation from the surrounding nations, but now in Christ, that difference disappears. They are now one. Paul goes on to list some other extreme differences. Barbarians, Scythians, slaves, and free people, they all come together as one in Christ. Even though their experiences and backgrounds could not be any more different, in Christ they unite.
So the church is a place of unity. The church is Sesame Street in living color.
That means not only do we welcome the stranger and make him feel special, but we also fold him into our group, making him one of us. He becomes us, and we become him in Christ.
Whether you are from the North or South, East or West, it doesn’t matter. Whether you grew up in a Christian home or a grew up as the only Christian in your home, it doesn’t matter. You belong in the church. Whether you always went to church or just started attending now. It doesn’t matter. All those distinctions dissolve in the glorious light of the unity we have in Christ.
In Christ the church exhibits a unity and diversity surpassing even that of Sesame Street. What a beautiful picture of God’s peace-making love.