Challenge: Leave Christ Out
By Lu Mountenay of Independence, MO, USA
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. —Matthew 5:9 NRSV
My assignment was to speak for Sunday worship at the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Kansas City. This was a challenge for a Trinitarian. I had in mind what I would say—that was my first mistake.
The liaison for the worship service reminded me several times before the service that their group included persons of many different beliefs—atheists, agnostics, non-Christian theists, and Christians. Knowing my background, she asked me to be careful with my language, and not use terms like Jesus, Christ, Son of God, Redeemer, and so forth. Also, she asked, please don’t use “God” too often; otherwise someone (like her) might feel left out or offended.
I respected her wish to use language that was more “inclusive” of the congregation. This was a lesson for me, who thought of myself as already inclusive in thought and language. However, I found my circle of inclusion wasn’t yet wide enough. Now the challenge: write a homily using language that included everyone by excluding Christ!
I learned as I wrote. Whenever I was tempted to quote Jesus or use him as an example, another person would come to mind whose life or actions could represent the role well. My good friend Jim from Community of Christ went to jail (and plans to go again) for trespassing in protest at a nuclear weapons plant. He is willing to risk his freedom for the sake of the Earth and its people.
My new friend Lauren, a Buddhist, took on the legal system. While jailed for civil disobedience, she pondered and wrote about the injustices suffered by the imprisoned poor, not worrying about her own plight. Jane, Henry, and many other friends at Catholic Worker Houses rival the generous and self-sacrificing nature of “you know who.” Dick and Barbara, members of my own congregation, typify the hospitality and love of (dare I say it?) God.
I could name so many others who present the image of Christ, and, without saying his name, you would know who I was talking about. Just between us, many of those at All Souls UU are among those in whom I see Christ, whether they like it or not.
I had good responses from the homily and All Souls invited our group to return. The experience was humbling and made my faith in God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit even more precious to me.
Prayer for Peace
God of all faiths, help us build ecumenical bridges and to respect people with different beliefs. As we embody shalom and share peace, may it be with intent to include all.
Spiritual Practice: Welcoming Unity in Diversity
Meditate on Unity in Diversity. Create a large circle with your arms. See and feel the diverse people God invites inside the sanctuary of Christ’s peace represented by this circle.
Who is easiest to welcome? Whom do you struggle to include? Confess the dividing walls between you and people too different or “challenging” to invite into your spiritual home. Ask God to forgive and heal barriers that keep us from loving one another.
Today, God, when words fall short, I will invite people to you by my actions.