When John the Baptist sent word to Jesus, asking if he was the One to come, or if his disciples should wait on another, Jesus sent back the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.” And, Jesus adds, “blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” Jesus echoes these words in his first sermon after his baptism, adding “He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” The words of the prophet framed Jesus’s ministry, pushing him into uncomfortable corners of his world, corners that some of God’s people had been pushed into. That same claim and call now pushes us into our world.
This weekend West Raleigh will live out loud in this world, offering up our best gifts as we seek to turn strangers into friends and shine light into an anxious and dangerous world. On Saturday we will partner with Muslim interfaith activist, Faisal Khan and five Syrian families who have been resettled in the United States to forge a Way forward. We will begin with a collaborative art project at 3:30pm, followed by a public Interfaith Peace Vigil in the courtyard at 5pm, then a simple soup supper in the fellowship hall afterwards. I am so grateful to the Mission, Peace & Justice Committee, the Arts Ministry as well as the Hospitality & Fellowship Committee for their vision and their work on this project – they have set the table for us to welcome our Syrian brothers and sisters as well as the interfaith community.
The session and I have also added our names, along with other faith leaders, to a full page ad, sponsored by the North Carolina Council of Churches that will run in Sunday’s News & Observer. Against the backdrop of a dove, the ad will say “All of our holy texts call us to love one another, to care for each other, and to work for justice. Now more than ever, we pledge to lead by example and work together for the beloved community God invites us to share.”
Dear friends, we have been called into the world to be part of the creation of God’s beloved community. That call will inevitably push us into corners of the world that are uncomfortable, even offensive. Yet those corners are also the places where the blind receive sight – perhaps our eyes will be opened. They are the corners where deaf ears are opened – perhaps our ears will hear a new song. They are the corners where the captives are longing for release – perhaps in their freedom, we will understand freedom more fully. They are also the places where strangers are made into friends so that, together, we can proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
See you in the world. See you in church.