In an increasingly interconnected and diverse world, interfaith dialogue has become a pressing need. While some Christians may question the compatibility of engaging with other faith traditions, I firmly believe that embracing interfaith dialogue is not only possible but essential for fostering understanding, promoting peace, and sharing the love of Christ without compromising the Gospel.
Embracing the Great Commandment: As followers of Christ, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. Engaging in interfaith dialogue allows us to extend this love to people of different faiths, fostering mutual respect and empathy. It is an opportunity to build bridges, break down barriers, and promote harmony in a divided world.
Learning and Growing: Interfaith dialogue provides a unique chance for Christians to deepen their understanding of their own faith. By engaging with others' perspectives and beliefs, we gain fresh insights, challenge our assumptions, and develop a more robust understanding of our own Christian convictions. This enriches our spiritual journey and equips us to articulate our beliefs more effectively.
Demonstrating Christ's Love: Engaging in interfaith dialogue allows us to embody Christ's love and compassion. By listening attentively, valuing others' experiences, and engaging in respectful conversations, we demonstrate the transformative power of Christ's teachings. It is an opportunity to share our faith authentically and, through our actions, invite others to encounter the love and grace of Jesus.
Building Genuine Relationships: Interfaith dialogue provides a platform to forge meaningful relationships with people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs. By engaging in dialogue, we discover our shared values, aspirations, and concerns, fostering connections based on respect and mutual understanding. These relationships become avenues for witnessing Christ's love in both words and actions.
Strengthening Christian Witness: Engaging in interfaith dialogue enables us to represent Christ faithfully in a pluralistic society. By demonstrating a willingness to listen, learn, and engage, we break down stereotypes and misconceptions that can hinder effective evangelism. We become ambassadors of reconciliation, reflecting the reconciling work of Christ and presenting a winsome witness to those of other faiths.
As Christians, we are called to engage in interfaith dialogue without compromising the Gospel. By embracing such conversations, we demonstrate Christ's love, foster understanding, and strengthen our own faith. Through interfaith dialogue, we can build bridges, establish meaningful relationships, and contribute to a more harmonious and peaceful world. Let us approach interfaith dialogue with humility, grace, and a firm foundation in the Gospel, knowing that engaging with others' beliefs does not dilute our faith but rather enriches it and magnifies the transformative power of Christ in our lives.
As you know, we have begun an in-depth study/discussion of Mark’s story of Jesus. Starting with this blog, I will post a short reflection drawn from Mark’s text that will seek to connect to our own lives (echoing the comment made a couple generations ago by Karl Barth, to read the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other).
Mark refers to his message as “Good News” or “Gospel” (evangelion). In so doing he began a new genre of literature, but he borrowed the concept from the political world of his day. This word was a technical term for news of a victory, usually and paradigmatically, a military victory.
In the Roman empire it was associated with political news and propaganda, for example, used to announce the birthdays of emperors. Mark’s Good News is a narrative sermon (not simply a collection of historical facts and summaries), and the question it gives the reader is not only what we should know, but how we should live. The language (like much of theology) is not only informative, but also formative, and therefore performative. And this inform—form—perform —inform… relational dynamic is ongoing, a virtuous circle meant to fuel the disciple’s life.
When Jesus calls his first disciples, he does not go to the usual suspects: teachers and religious leaders, or wealthy and powerful men. He does not go to the center of cultural, political, and religious power (Judea, Jerusalem, the Temple precincts). Rather, he goes to the margins, the periphery, the “Appalachia” of his time and place, to Galilee, and there enlists four fishermen (Mark 1.16-20). Something the reader cannot help but notice is how abruptly Simon, Andrew, James, and John, drop their nets and follow him. He calls them to follow with the rationale that Jesus will make them “fishers of men” (people). And they leave their businesses and families “immediately” (a word Mark uses 41 times in his Gospel). You can see the father of James and John—Zebedee—slack-jawed and holding the net, staring at his sons as they walk off with this stranger.
Read in the ordinary way, this passage just seems like a clumsy effort to be succinct, and an example of the no frills and fast-paced way Mark presents his story. But perhaps we can see the abruptness of the calling of these first four disciples as a kind of paradigm. After all, we too are called, but are not ready for all that awaits us. How could we be? It does not matter if we grew up in the church, went to Sunday School, got baptized, and spent plenty of time in prayer, worship, and Bible study. When we receive Jesus’ call, we are far from entirely aware of what it means and where it will take us. Like the fishermen, none of us are the “right” kind of people. Jesus’ call is always urgent, and an uncompromising call to break with “business as usual”—the social order and conventions that God broke into history to overturn. Jesus was God’s answer to Isaiah’s yearning and plea to God: “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!” (Isa. 64.1). The Reign of God (“kingdom of God”) inaugurated in Jesus is an abrupt calling in, and upon, our lives too. In his The Cost of Discipleship (p. 61), Dietrich Bonhoeffer notes that the calling of these four men demonstrates Jesus’ authority as transcending conventions and calculations about being “worthy.” He also points out that this story is a reminder that faith (trust) does not precede obedience to Jesus so much as obedience precedes faith. For these fishermen and for us, the question is, Will you follow? It is on the following journey that our faith and trust develop.
In a world with violence and injustice swirling around us at every turn, with claimants to authority beckoning us from every angle, with false and empty enticements of “good news” that abound, it is truly good news that we can grow into a life of trust, grace, love, and power as we journey with the One who calls us each step of the way. Step by step. The song Tú Has Venido a la Orilla (Ceasár Gabaráin, 1979) places us at the Sea of Galilee,
You have come to the lakeshore,
looking neither for wise nor for wealthy,
You only wanted that I should follow.
You know that I own so little,
In my boat there’s no money or weapons,
You’ll only find there my nets and labor.
O Lord, with your eyes you have searched me,
and while smiling, have called out my name.
Now my boat’s left on the shoreline behind me.
Now with you I will seek other shores.
Do you hear your name?
Thanks for reading,
At Riverfront Family Church, we believe in the power of unity and collaboration. We are called to work together with other faith communities to bring about positive change and transform our city. Today, we want to highlight the important work of the Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance (GHIAA) and celebrate their recent victories. As we delve into their accomplishments and explore their current agenda, we hope to inspire and encourage our congregation to join hands in pursuing justice, compassion, and social transformation.
GHIAA has been at the forefront of numerous victories, advocating for justice and fairness in our community. They have stood up for the marginalized and vulnerable, making a tangible impact in the lives of many. Let us celebrate a few of their recent triumphs:
Affordable Housing Initiatives: GHIAA played a pivotal role in advocating for affordable housing policies, resulting in increased access to safe and affordable homes for families in our community. Through their efforts, families are finding stability and security, fostering stronger neighborhoods and communities.
Criminal Justice Reform: GHIAA has been instrumental in advocating for criminal justice reform, addressing issues such as bail reform, reentry programs, and reducing the school-to-prison pipeline. Their tireless work has led to increased opportunities for rehabilitation and a more equitable system for all.
Educational Equity: GHIAA has been a driving force in advocating for educational equity, working towards ensuring that every child in our community has access to quality education. Through their efforts, disparities are being addressed, and opportunities for success are expanding for all students, regardless of their background or circumstances.
Current Agenda and Call to Action:
As we celebrate GHIAA's victories, it is equally important to be aware of their current agenda and the challenges that lie ahead. The work of justice and social transformation is ongoing, and GHIAA continues to be at the forefront of these efforts. Some key areas of their current agenda include:
Racial Justice and Equity: GHIAA remains committed to addressing systemic racism and promoting racial justice in our community. They are actively engaging in conversations, organizing events, and advocating for policies that dismantle racial inequities and create a more just society.
Healthcare Access: GHIAA recognizes the importance of affordable and accessible healthcare for all individuals and is working towards ensuring that everyone in our community has equitable access to healthcare services.
Environmental Justice: GHIAA is engaged in advocating for environmental justice, understanding the impact of environmental issues on marginalized communities and advocating for sustainable practices that promote a healthier and more equitable environment for all.
Call to Action:
As members of Riverfront Family Church, we are called to support and engage with GHIAA in their important work. Here are a few ways we can respond:
Stay Informed: Stay updated on GHIAA's initiatives, events, and campaigns. Visit their website, sign up for newsletters, and attend community meetings to remain informed about the issues they are addressing.
Volunteer and Engage: GHIAA often organizes rallies, community forums, and advocacy campaigns. Volunteer your time, voice, and talents to support their efforts and actively participate in bringing about positive change.
Pray: Lift up GHIAA and its members in your prayers. Pray for wisdom, strength, and discernment as they continue to advocate for justice and equality in our community.
GHIAA's work is a testament to the power of faith communities coming together for the greater good. We celebrate their victories, acknowledge their ongoing agenda, and respond to their call to action. Let us join hands with GHIAA and other faith communities in the pursuit of justice, compassion, and