It was still dark when I got up this morning and went out for the newspaper. I identified Orion’s Belt and looked for the Big Dipper before I got a crick in my neck.
It’s an auspicious start to what is going to be a busy day. Our church is celebrating the kickoff to our 225th anniversary in 2015 with a special message from the District Superintendent followed by a luncheon. We invited friends, acquaintances, and strangers to come help us celebrate, and I hear the fellowship hall will be full. This morning will also be the culmination of our canned food drive, which at last count had already exceeded the goal of 225 cans of food for the crisis ministry.
Then, this afternoon, Sam Wazan will talk about ending religious violence. It seems a strange diversion from the anticipation of the morning activities as we as a church look forward to another two centuries of serving our community, but maybe not. We have become complacent, if not smug, about our position. We’re Christians among Christians. Even if we divide along denominational lines, we all think pretty much the same way. During holidays, the Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists,and Catholics — the five “uptown” churches — rotate community services in their sanctuaries.
But it isn’t the same in other countries. I read with horror of Christians being told to renounce their faith or die.
And of one sect of Muslims opening fire on another sect. Really? That would be like the Methodists bombing the Baptist Church over the question of sprinkling vs. total immersion.
Sam Wazan lived through the horror of civil war in his native county of Lebanon. He saw Muslim turn against Jew, Christian against Muslim, Jew against Christian, and all spouting the same rhetoric that theirs was the one true religion and anyone who disagreed was in effect agreeing to suffer the consequences, which is most cases was death.
A heavy subject for a sunny Sunday afternoon, but one we need to hear — and heed. Violence begins in the home, and only when Christian, Muslim, and Jew teach their children to respect other people’s road to faith will it end.
I urge you to to read Wazan’s book, “Trapped in Four Square Miles,” a fictionalized account of his realization that nothing can grow in a killing field.
It’s going to be a busy day and a long one. I hope to come home inspired to work for the future of my church, my community, and my world.