July 7, 2016
On Building Walls, Offering Peace, Brexits, and the 4th of July...
There are so many different ways to imagine a country. In the US, we often focus on politics and power. Who’s the president? Who’s in Congress? Who are our friends and enemies? How can we make deals that are good for us? How strong is our economy?
This July 4 weekend, I found myself imagining us in another way: as a giant collection of neighbors. As I preached to my congregation, many of whom are undocumented immigrants, and aren’t quite sure if they are even included in what is being celebrated on July 4, I preached about neighbors. I preached about Jesus sending us out to make neighbors out of strangers. I preached about Jesus sending strangers who seek to be our neighbors, bearing only an offer of peace. I preached about the riskiness and fragility of a project that is entirely predicated on the offer of peace and the gift of hospitality. I preached about the power Jesus saw in such simple actions, and the disciples’ wonder and joy at how well it actually seemed to work.
We live in a time when the threads that bind us together are often invisible. We have probably never been more connected to neighbors around the world -- through the internet and trade and global economies and foreign wars and mass migration. But we may also have never felt quite so disconnected from one another close to home. Divisions loom large. Urban, suburban, rural. Latino, Black, White, Asian, Indigenous, Multiracial. Northern, Southern Eastern, Western, Midwestern. Coastal, middle of the country. Republican, Democrat, disaffected, confused, despairing. Prosperous, insecure, unemployed. Afraid of the police, afraid of terrorists, afraid of each other.
I’m less and less sure that there’s any way out of the mess we’re in other than a long, sometimes arduous project of re-neighboring. Of asking again, “Who is my neighbor?” “How can I be a neighbor?” And acting on the answers.
Jesus seemed to think that a group of seventy was enough to get things started. That’s about the size of the average Episcopal worshipping community.
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