Dear People of Saint Peter’s,
In the beginning, in the book of Genesis, both Creation stories include an account of God’s intention. We read about the diversity of both animals and plants and a God who revels in great variety. God proclaims that all that God has made is Good. It therefore seems quite peculiar, that humanity seems to recoil against the multiplicity of Creation and seek uniformity. The sexual, racial and ethnic divides which we allow to divide us are clearly against the divine intent.
A huge part of Jesus’ earthly ministry was to counter this division. In all four of the Gospels we see Jesus crossing the lines of gender, ethnicity & race. He reaches out to the woman at the well, Gentiles, Samaritans and even his Roman oppressors. Jesus never turns anyone away, even those who may disagree with him. They may choose to reject him, but he continues to seek to continue the conversation and channel the love of God.
Which brings us to the crucial Christian value of INCLUSION. As we look at the created order we immediately notice two realities: Balance and Connection. We see balance in the way all organism fit together in the created order; both plants and animals. If we remove a form of plant life, some animals lose their ability to feed. If an animal goes extinct, it creates ripples throughout the ecosystem. Creation is a system in which all that God has created has an important role to play. We may not always see it or fully understand it, but despite what we do, Creation will always seek a balance. Further, this balance also shows the connection between all species of Creation. We cannot exempt ourselves—even if we leave the planet and travel through space, we still need to breathe as we do on planet Earth, we still need things to eat and to drink. We are connected to the system in which we are born and we cannot fully divorce ourselves from these connections and continue to live.
Balance and connection are also crucial for our relationships with each other and as we practice our faith. As Christians, we seek to make a place for everyone to feel connected and included, we strive for relationship and connection, even with those with whom we have serious and deep disagreements. To be sure, this is not always easy or even possible. Our humanness can get in the way, and we may find it necessary either to protect ourselves or others. Yet, this must always be the last resort as we are resigned to the limits and frailty of our humanness. Still, even if we withdraw, we do not give up. We continue to pray daily for God to bringing healing to us and the other. We continue to see the mind of Christ and rise above our pain and limitations.
As the people of God, as students and followers of Jesus Christ, we are committed to following his path of peace, compassion, justice, mercy and reconciliation. All of us know conflict in this life and we are all challenged to see Christ in others. To be sure, this can be particularly challenging at times. Yet, if we give up seeking Christ, if we resort to returning and replicating the bad behaviors of others, we not only devolve, we distant ourselves from God. As Jesus said in the eighth chapter of Mark’s Gospel, “What will it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose their soul?” Our soul cannot grow and survive at the expense of others.
Saint Paul once told the Church in Galatia, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” He knew full well of the prejudice of the human heart and the dividing lines we create amongst ourselves, and yet he wanted to enable his readers to rise above these human constructs. This was not to deny our difference but rather to help us glimpse the broader vision of the Divine reality. Diversity keeps it from getting boring, but love and compassion keeps us all one! This is an intrinsic part of the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In the Baptismal Covenant, we are asked “Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News in God in Christ?” This Good News is to share compassion as freely as we can with others, to help everyone know they are beloved of God and part of the Creation. There are NO OUTSIDERS! Despite our difference, challenges and disagreements, there are NO OUTSIDERS! We respond to this question in the Covenant and promise that “We will, with God’s help.” As people of faith, it is our role to work to make the Good News known, by how we speak and act and in all we say and do. We will not always do it well and we may even feel quite overwhelmed by the course of domestic and world events. Still, as it is written in the Jewish Talmud, drawing from the prophet Micah “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” We strive on, doing our best to love and make a place for others to feel and know that they are loved too.
Please keep me in your prayers and know that you are daily in mine.