The following is the text I sent to Gloucester Daily Times for the MidWeek Musings. They edited it somewhat, so this is the original. Putting it here, so you know what your Pastor is up to. Also, today, I graduated from the Massachusetts General Hospital Clinical Pastoral Education program with a 3rd unit of CPE. Kind of a big deal, actually. The Supervisor of CPE at Mass General is Rev. Angelika Zolllfrank, who is also a Lutheran pastor.
The Possible Dream–MidWeek Musings for Gloucester Daily Times, 12/18/13
Tomorrow, the Grace Center, Inc. will celebrate its second birthday as an interfaith-based drop-in crisis center. Housed in three different churches on Middle St., Grace Center is rooted in a shared spiritual commitment to serving the neighbor, regardless of our religious affiliations. Last month, the Cape Ann Interfaith Commission, a lay interfaith organization celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a wonderful day of story-telling, singing, and sharing. On Saturday, December 14th, our nation remembered and mourned the deaths of children and teachers from gun violence at Sandy Hook with prayers for peace, for safe homes and schools, a longing for changes in gun laws. And on December 15th, the people of another nation, South Africa, laid a spiritual giant, Nelson Mandela, to rest in the village where he was born.
What do all these events have in common? There’s a beautiful prophecy in the bible, by a prophet named Isaiah, and he speaks of the longing of his people for a time of peace, a time of reconciliation. Over and over again, he announces the possibility that human beings can, in fact, live together without violence. As a prophet, of course, his words come as words from God, and so Isaiah shares what some have called God’s dream for us. Isaiah calls people to envision this hope; “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” What these events have in common, for me, at least, is this: they express the deepest longings of our hearts for peace, for the shelter of God’s peace.
This is the season of Advent for Christians, and week after week as we move toward Christmas, we listen to the prophets’ dreams of peace, of harmony, of safety.
Who would not long for a world where apartheid is impossible because we all decided to see our common humanity, to see our neighbor as ourselves? Or for a world where homelessness is impossible, because we all decided that everyone should have a safe shelter, and that the person living on the street really is our brother, our sister, our daughter, our son, our family. That’s one of the things we learned at the Grace Center, the person we might be serving really is a member of the community. Who for a community where anti-Semitism is impossible because we decided to practice radical generosity toward each other, seeking to understand each other’s experiences. That was one of the commitments of the Cape Ann Interfaith Commission, and we learned it again at their anniversary celebration. We listened to each others’ stories of holy encounters with someone whose faith was different from ours. It was a marvelous gathering, because we spent time listening, just listening. Who would not long for a world where children are safe in their schools, because we all decided that their lives are more important than someone’s so-called freedom to buy an assault weapon?
We know these things, these hopes are not impossible dreams. It’s not impossible to end homelessness, or gun violence, or prejudice. It’s not impossible to work together to create safe homes, families, communities, nations. With enough compassion, enough will, enough persistence, they are possible dreams. We have seen hints of those possibilities already in our time. We saw that kind of resolve in Nelson Mandela, whose commitment to radical forgiveness changed the face of politics in South Africa. As it turns out, loving the neighbor as ourselves is not impractical. It’s immensely practical, for love addresses the neighbor’s need, and in meeting that, the world becomes a home for everyone.