I put all of these polarizing questions together because the conflict between the choices before us is real and part of the Gospel message. Who is my neighbor? And how should I treat my neighbor? Jesus had something to say about this because he knew that each of us, in our humanity, wrestles with the choice between care of self, care of others, and how far that circle of care extends.
AND, I know the answer to WWJD. It is not a mystery, he instructs us to welcome the refugees and care for them as part of our own human family. He says over and over and over again, “Be not afraid.” Even in the face of death, “Be not afraid.” For if you would save your life, you will lose it. And if you lose your life, for the sake of Christ in your neighbor, you will save it.
The Gospel instructs us, but it does not make the decision to care for others any easier. We only gain the strength to fight terror with love and relationship by our daily practice of faithfully seeing Christ in those who are different from ourselves. It is the incremental change within each person and within each community that allows us to ultimately risk ourselves for people we have not even met yet. I believe that the Good Samaritan must have spent years practicing loving others, even those who would hate him, before he was ready to care for the injured man in the ditch by the side of the road.
We are practicing this kind of care and compassion at St. Mark’s. I am so grateful to be part of a community that values difference and seeks to share our unique cultures with honor and respect. I hope that we are creating a culture of loving curiosity and developing relationships of trust. I pray that our faithful practice of loving others who are different from ourselves is changing each one of us. This is what I believe will fight terror and bring an end to the violence that infects our planet. But this vaccine is administered one person at a time. Are you getting inoculated? Have you had a booster shot? If people are not vaccinated, then the disease can spread and create a mass epidemic of fear and violence.
I am so excited for our Thanksgiving Dinner at St. Mark’s because I see this celebration as an opportunity to practice loving our neighbor and sharing without counting the cost to ourselves. It is an opportunity to develop relationships in our community and recognize that our community extends to everyone who is fed at St. Mark’s. Not just those who gather around the communion table at worship, but also those who gather at the food pantry. It is a chance to get a big booster shot in the arm for your ability to fight off fear and embrace compassion.
Even if you are celebrating Thanksgiving with your kinfolk, look for every opportunity you have to practice loving your neighbors who are different, and give thanks for the community of love that we are creating around the planet, one member at a time.