I believe this dream is the dream pictured in Revelations where the great multitude is gathered, every nation, every tribe, every people and every language worshipping together. And I believe that this message of reconciliation is THE MESSAGE of the gospel.
"For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross." [Colossians 1:19-20]
And yet we are living in divisive times where hate, fear, greed and violence often feel like they are winning. Where war and genocide still occur, where racism and oppression are rampant, where walls are built to keep the "other" out and children are separated from their parents. There is a collective groan, one articulated by the Psalmists long ago.
O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand? [Psalm 13:1-2]
This was the prayer we uttered in Turkish and then English at the Peace Feast on Sunday as we shared a meal with Turkish Muslim Refugees. A fitting prayer in response to the stories of oppression, incarceration, and harsh treatment the Turkish refugees experienced and are still experiencing by being a part of the wrong social group. They fled from forced poverty and inhumane conditions in prison as everyday teachers, civil servants and journalists were locked away on unsubstantiated "terrorist" charges. Not unlike so many in the world today persecuted because they are the wrong race, culture, affiliation, religion or political party.
It was hard to believe that these kind and gracious people I sat across the table from were a threat to their government. But then again, our own government was founded upon these same racist, prejudiced principles.
“Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race. Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shore, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society. From the sixteenth century forward, blood flowed in battles over racial supremacy. We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or feel remorse for this shameful episode. Our literature, our films, our drama, our folklore all exalt it. Our children are still taught to respect the violence which reduced a red-skinned people of an earlier culture into a few fragmented groups herded into impoverished reservations.” Dr. King.
Hagar and her husband Nazim were beautiful people, explaining to us how Hagar's name is derived from the Abraham story, a story we both share as Muslims and Christians. Yes, indeed, we are brothers and sisters. And God's work is one of reconciliation and peace. I could tell this resonated between us as we exchanged contact details, promising to continue the conversation before we said our goodbyes.
This beloved community is the community that I want to work towards building. Far more than a nice ideal and a nod to justice that I as a white, privileged woman can feel good about for a day, I am committed to join in and support this work over the long haul as I learn from and follow those who have gone before.
The world doesn't need our niceness, white folks. Neither does it need our mediocrity. Instead, we are invited to follow the radical teachings of Jesus.
As the civil rights activist and author, Dominique Gilliard has challenged us, "Pastors please stop domesticating the radical teachings and example found in the Christ!"
And as a church, this is the work. God's work of renewal, healing and reconciliation in the world. And we get to be a part of it.
▪ As we share meals with Turkish Muslim refugees and extend warm welcome and solidarity for the suffering of their people.
▪ As we show up in our places to join the work with our neighbors at The Beloved Community event in Edmonds, the MLK event at Casa Latina, the Edwin Pratt Living the Dream event at Shoreline City Hall, and the Shoreline Social Justice Book Club.
▪ As we gather around tables with neighbors and strangers alike as we did last night. I had the gift of meeting Massoud, an Iranian American, and hearing the heartbreak of his story as he shared about the loss of his beloved wife. Yes, we are brothers and sisters, all of us, longing for connection, aching to be heard, yearning for home.
▪ As we lament and create songs, poems and art that express our prayers and our dreams for all of us to flourish. Check out Cecelia Romero Like's poem this week.
▪ And as I prepare to attend our Turning Point community meal tonight in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., I look forward to taking in the beautiful diversity that at times takes my breath away. A reminder that heaven is near. A vision of the beloved community -- where Christian and Muslim, Eritrian and Ethiopian, Filipino and Mexican, indigenous and immigrant, those with homes and those without, those with parents and those aching for their loved ones -- will all come together and experience the power of community.
"The cross is the eternal expression of the length to which God will go in order to restore broken community. The resurrection is a symbol of God’s triumph over all the forces that seek to block community. The Holy Spirit is the continuing community creating reality that moves through history. He who works against community is working against the whole of creation." Dr. King
May you follow the radical teachings of Jesus. May you include those who others shun. May you listen to stories and experiences that are foreign to you. May you give up power, privilege and preference so that the voices of others can be heard. May you break bread with those whose ideology offends yours. May you learn to love your enemies.
by Jessica Ketola