I did not grow up playing Bingo. I considered it a Catholic gambling fundraiser. I was surprised when my parents played Bingo on vacation in Florida. I joined them once and watched people frantically marking dozens of cards on every call. People were seeking community there. Ah, Bingo.
I also play what some might know as “Dutch Bingo.” Because I belong to a small interconnected culture of Dutch immigrants, when we meet someone of the “tribe,” we look for connections. I have found it useful to play this outside of the tribe too.
When you meet someone, take that Bingo card in your mind and put a chip on the centre square for being at the same place at the same time. Ask questions to place more chips. Name? If this is enough to make a connection, “Bingo!” If not, then ask where they are from. Within my tribe, I often find a connection with Calvin, Dordt, Redeemer, The Kings, ICS or Trinity. Occupation? Some connect by having a relative who, like me, is a preacher. Before we even get to matching hobbies, this might lead to “Which church”? I might hear acronyms like CRC, RCA, URC, PR, OPC, GKN, PKN, NR, CR . . . . . But this can highlight a divide. What is the opposite of a bingo?
Faith traditions often make divisions. My tradition is schismatic. Have you heard this one? A Dutch immigrant was stranded alone on a desert island for years. Finally, he was rescued. As they were leaving the island, the rescuers asked about the three buildings he had built. The Dutchman said that the first one was his house and the second one was his church. They asked about the third building. “Oh, that’s the church I used to go to.”
In the 1980s, in the midst of the controversies that lead to the formation of the United Reformed Churches, my wife said that it seemed that “these three things remain, faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is” truth as I see it. We need to return to 1 Corinthians 13 to see that it is in the context of church life, not marriage, that Paul says,
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (4-7, NIV).
In writing to the Philippians Paul says,
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind” (Phil. 2:1-2, NIV).
Ora et Labora
Humans are social beings reflecting the very nature of God. The church is called to recreate community and to reflect the Gospel. Jesus prayed this for us,
“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:22-23, NIV).
May we join in this prayer, following Scripture in our work. Yes, we will disagree. Even those from the same tribe will see things differently. Christians come out of different ethnic, national and cultural traditions, but we are all united by the Gospel of God’s love and our need to love and be loved.
The vision I have shared with students is of one church of Jesus Christ in communities. Churches with different flavours but the same fundamental message talking, sharing, cooperating, knowing each other. Church leaders leading cooperation in loving service in the community, discussing community opportunities, celebrating gifts.
In a world of division we need to play Bingo with each other. Meet. Talk. Share stories. Make connections. Bingo!