Last summer, I visited an art museum built on the Norwegian painter Nikolai Astrup’s farm in Jølster, a stunning area on the west coast of Norway.
Astrup (30th of August 1880 – 21st of January 1928) painted throughout his life, vivid, bright paintings mainly depicting the area where he grew up and lived.
He has been called “the master of green”, as he used more shades than most of his contemporaries. The often-present green background in his paintings reflected the lush area of his surroundings and served as the backdrop to the bright colours he used on flowers and other details. Astrup is looked upon as one of the greatest Norwegian artists.
My visit to the art museum stirred a visual image, as I thought of the church as a painting, with the colours of diverse talents, gifts and backgrounds resting on God’s grace, peace and mercy.
There is such beauty in the church as we experience God giving space for the colours he has created and grown to flourish and bloom and, in turn, give witness to his rich grace and mercy.
The beauty of diversity in the church offers each of us an opportunity to contribute, give colour and a glimpse of God’s various gifts of grace and mercy to people we encounter. The church has space for every skill, talent, and background, resting and shining out from the green of God’s grace.
As the diversity in the church serves the diversity of needs outside the church, there is a gift in the ability to serve through all the colours in the church. I see this as a blessing. The church’s DNA consists of various people ministering through who they are and being blessings truly felt, trusted and seen by the surrounding community.
Recently, I was preaching in a church on the west coast of Norway. The languages spoken during lunch were varied, as refugees from Ukraine and Congo and immigrants from Europe and other parts of the world mingled with Norwegians over a tasty fellowship meal. I felt privileged as I left that day, able to belong and experience the church members serving in their ways and making an impact.
Diversity is present in the church, not only in personalities, walks of life, theological viewpoints, and interpretations of Scripture but also through the flair of our diverse cultural inheritance.
People take rescue in a different country; they move, travel and seek a space for community and to meet fellow believers. They seek God’s green pastures; through them, they flower, bloom, and give colour.
There is beauty in coming to a church and being welcomed by an open fellowship, where there is space and a shared culture of how the church receives and loves people into the church, which goes beyond and above our cultural differences and backgrounds.
In Acts 2, the gift of tongues indicated the gospel’s start travelling farther than Jerusalem, Galilee or Judea. It was supposed to be presented to the whole world and understood in the heart language (mother tongue) of the people who received the good news.
So, let’s celebrate the diversity in so much of the DNA of the church and be proud of its colours, many as they are, fully resting on the background of God’s green grace, mercy and hope for the future.
Marianne Dyrud is the Executive Secretary for the Norway Seventh-day Adventist Union