“The Reubenites and the Gadites called the altar Witness; “For,” said they, “it is a witness between us that the Lord is God.” -Joshua 22:34 (NRSV)
The Reubenites and Gadites were given land east of the Jordan, and they were afraid. Afraid that the other side of the Jordan would become the other side of the tracks. Afraid that the descendants would despise them as those people over there.
So they set up an altar. At first it was seen as a sign of division; people creating their own religion east of the Jordan. But really it was just the opposite. The altar was an outpost…an embassy. It was a sign to say they are one people, worshiping the one, true God together; and that no river would separate them.
It’s not God’s doing, but we have created the other side of the tracks. Brothers and sisters designated as “those” and “they.”
What is our altar Witness to display, not just say, that we are one? Can we worship together? Fight for one another? Represent one another? Or are cultural differences, locations, and preferences in music too much for us?