My family was typically American; “Christian” but in a broad, vague sense with little church identification. When we did attend church, it was a small fellowship – almost a club – of people much like ourselves.
I was fascinated by the Catholic parish in our neighborhood. Watching the folks come out of it after Sunday Mass, I saw Anglo neighbors, Filipinos, Mexicans and families from several nations that we now speak of as the Pacific Rim.
This visual experience established my idea of heaven and it’s a let down that the church on earth has a hard time replicating it.
The prophet Isaiah experienced the vision that launched his ministry While in the great Jerusalem Temple. No wonder he was receptive to a message from God that described the future as all races gathered to that sacred place,
Them I will bring to my holy mountain
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be acceptable on my altar,
For my house shall be called
a house of prayer for all peoples. (Isaiah 56:7 NAB)
Jesus quoted this prophecy when the Temple failed to live up to God’s purpose. Likewise, Jesus pointed to Elijah’s life as an example of God reaching out to all races,
But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. (Luke 4:25-26 NIV)
When we look at stories of the saints across time and place, I’m as inspired by their diverse nations and races as I am by their virtues.