Sunday, September 20, 2015

Interfaith Prayers for Peace on the Sunday before International Day of Peace, at Littlefield Presbyterian Church in Dearborn, Michigan, on September 20, 2015. A meditation from a Christian perspective. We also heard a recitaiton from the Qur'an, a short sermon from Imam Elahi, and selections from the Hebrew scriptures and prayers from Cantor Roger Skully.

Luke 19:41-42; 2 Corinthians 5:16-20

"As Jesus came near and saw the city (Jerusalem), he wept over it, saying, "If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!  But now they are hidden from your eyes."

For those of us who long for a better, more peaceful world, it’s  painful to see so much of what’s going on in the world… in our nation… and in our communities.  It can make us weep!
            For many of us, it’s the images of children that haunt us the most.  A staggering number of Syrian refugees are children and teens.  We were shocked and grieved a few weeks ago to see the photo of the body of a toddler washed up on the shore.  And now we learn that another refugee child has been found dead on the shore, and more are missing at sea.
            Many of us mourn when we remember there are millions of other children who die each year on this planet with little notice-- of malnutrition and of illnesses that could be prevented or treated if the world cared enough.
            Here in the United States, the Department of Agriculture reports that around 10 percent of households with children are food insecure—unable to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children.  More than 1 in 9 children in Michigan live in extreme poverty, at less than half the poverty-level income.
            The rate of gun deaths in children and teens in the United States is shockingly high.
            Many of us are troubled by events like the massacre of 9 African-Americans gathered at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston for Bible study in June by a white racist   and other race-related violence.
            In a neighbor city—Sterling Heights—there’s an ugly conflict over a request to build a new mosque.
            The list could go on and on… 

            I don’t know about you, but I find myself mourning all this violence and need and destruction… and longing to do something.  But it feels overwhelming.
            So--  what can we do?  In the midst of all the violence and hatred and apathy in our society… in the midst of racism and Islamaphobia and anti-Semitism… in the midst of all the need-- it’s easy to feel overwhelmed… and despairing.  What can one person  or just a few people do?
            We can begin by praying together… and forging bonds of friendship and solidarity… getting to know one another better… opening our hearts and minds to one another… and finding ways to work together to change the world. 
            Some of us have been working on these things.  Imam Elahi and I have been getting to know each other and working together in our Dearborn Area Interfaith Network group (and its predecessor Dearborn Area Ministerial Association) for the last 18 years.  Cantor Roger Skully has been involved with other interfaith groups in metro Detroit. 
            Some of you are part of one or more interfaith Facebook groups whose purpose is to build bridges of understanding—hence the names “The Bridge” and “Our Bridge.” 

            In the Christian tradition, we believe that Jesus came to embody God’s love in the world.  When people came to Jesus and asked him which commandment in the scriptures was the most important, Jesus answered, “’You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” 
            In Luke’s version of this, he tells how someone said, “Who is my neighbor?”  and Jesus went on to make it clear in the Parable of the Good Samaritan that our neighbor is anyone God puts in our path--  even someone we might have considered to be an enemy.[1]
            In the center of the passage we heard a few minutes ago from the apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, we hear that God has reconciled us to God’s self through Christ, and has entrusted us with the ministry of reconciliation.    Christians are not to look at anyone from a human point of view.  We’re not to see people who are different in some way as those other people.  We’re called to look at people through God’s eyes of love and to see our common humanity.    
            I think we need to spend more time doing interfaith scripture study, so I could share a passage like one of the ones we’ve heard today, and say, “Here’s a text that’s important to our faith.  What’s a text from your tradition that connects with it?  Where’s the common ground?”  Can we do that?  Will we do that? 
            Our commitment to peace and justice and reconciliation, and our love for our own children, demands that we provide a better inheritance for them.”
            On this Sunday before International Day of Peace, we are challenged to re-commit ourselves to PEACE… to live our lives as if we believe that peace is possible.
            Christians…Muslims…Jews…Sikhs…Hindus…Buddhists… and all people of faith and goodwill —this is a time for us to find ways to come together and work for a better, more peaceful world.
            There’s hard work to be done.   But we can work together to make a difference.
             After worship, we invite you to stay for a time, to enjoy refreshments and conversation.   I hope you’ll make a new friend today.  Talk with one another about your families—especially your children or grandchildren and what kind of a world you want to leave for them.
            U2 sings a song that begins like this:
            “Every generation gets a chance to change the world….”

            Today, let’s renew our commitment to change the world, beginning today. 
            May it be so!

[1] Luke 10:25-37; also Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-31

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