cac.org) and will be leaving us for New Mexico. I asked her to use this space this week for a farewell reflection addressed to St. Margaret's. Kym+
I read Kym's invitation to write this reflection shortly before leaving to attend a lecture on the special relationship between France and the Jews that originated around the time of the French Revolution and continues through this day when there is an average of one anti-Semitic incident a day there. Since shortly before the French revolution, the government decided that the best way to deal with what they saw as the problem of Jews living in France was to protect them and educate them into assimilation. The lecture, aside from appealing to my Francophile leanings and six-year observance of certain Jewish practices, relates to the contemplative prayer time I will be facilitating for an emerging church group this Saturday. It is the last commitment I have before I move to Albuquerque Monday to begin working at the Center for Action and Contemplation.
The leader of the group asked me tie Howard Thurman's Jesus and the Disinherited with Jesus' declaration of his mission in Luke 4. The aspect of his mission statement that I will focus on relates to releasing captives and letting the oppressed go free. For both Jesus and Howard Thurman freedom begins with an internal conversion, a realization that at our core we are God's sons and daughters, and because we are loved unconditionally by God, no external force can destroy our core identity. Therefore, we have the freedom not to retaliate when someone threatens to harm or actually harms our body, our reputation, or anything of ourselves we hold dear.
God's love for us empowers us to love ourselves and love others including those whom we consider enemies or strangers. In the meditation I will be leading, I invite consideration of our uniqueness, our strangeness as, to quote from Sean Caulfield's The Experience of Prayer, "an opening to the Infinite, a unique word God has spoken to this world." Unlike the French, members of St. Margaret's do not see strangers as a problem. When people ask me about my impression of this parish I often tell them it's a community for misfits. It was the first place in my life where I felt accepted as myself, with no pressure to be other than myself.
I'm reminded of Jesus' words, "I was a stranger and you welcomed me," and the response, "when did we see you a stranger and welcome you?" On one level, their reply can be read as an acknowledgement that welcoming strangers is just what they did because it was the right thing to do. They had no idea they were welcoming Christ. Another reading is equally relevant to my experience at St. Margaret's. When we act from our uniqueness as an expression of God and see others as expressions of God, then there are no strangers. And that's my most prevalent experience of St. Margaret's welcome, an embrace of all who come through these doors as God's own.
I will miss St. Margaret's and I will carry St. Margaret's with me as I move toward this next phase of stranger welcome-being welcomed as a stranger and coming to welcome the "unique words of God" that I will encounter.