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Unity, Diversity, Interfaith Dialogue, and the Mission of the Church

How can we find unity in a world that seems so divided with hatred and violence? That is an incredibly important question that has life and death implications. There are a few things converging this week, and today specifically, that address this question.

First, our ninth grade students are currently in the process of visiting other faith traditions. We have visited a Greek Orthodox worship service, a Muslim prayer service, and a Jewish Shabbat service (unfortunately our Pentecostal friends had to back out at the last minute). I really look forward to leading these students and mentors through a discussion of these experiences in a three week series in January on how we should engage interfaith dialogue.

Second, Richard Rohr’s daily meditations this week are devoted to the theme Interfaith Friendship. Each one has been rich indeed. Today’s meditation is especially helpful, because it addresses one of the most common fears that some people have regarding ecumenical movements and interfaith dialogue. Some people are afraid that, if we seek unity with people and systems that are different than are own, then somehow we will lose our own distictness and identity. This is a valid concern. Read what Rohr says,

Many teachers have made the central, but often-missed, point that unity is not the same as uniformity. Unity, in fact, is the reconciliation of differences, and those differences must first be maintained—and then overcome by the power of love! You must actually distinguish things and separate them before you can spiritually unite them, usually at cost to yourself (see Ephesians 2:14-16). If only we had made that simple clarification, so many problems—and overemphasized, separate identities—could have moved to a much higher level of love and service.

He goes on to note that this is the essence of the Triune God. There is only one God, but God is the unity of three persons. God is a diverse unity of loving relationship, and this is the very fabric of the universe. Again, this is a central point to my research and essential to walking in the Way of Jesus.

Third, tonight we are going to do something very special that moves along these same lines. It is Wednesday so we normally have our worship service, called the Table, followed by an education hour where elementary kids, confirmation students, and adults all go to separate spaces to learn. Tonight we are giving up our worship and learning space for a community event called the Holiday Gift Shop. This is where some of our neighbors have an opportunity to “shop” for free Christmas gifts. This event displaces us, so we are going to combine the confirmation students with the adults. It just so happens that we are scheduled to teach on the third article of the Creed tonight. This disruption gives us a great opportunity to talk about the disruptive and unitive nature of the Holy Spirit and the real purpose for the church.

We are going to show the Bible Project’s video on the Holy Spirit as part of the lesson. It’s so good I thought I would share it with you here.

Below is an image I created back in 2013 to meditate on these ideas, Enjoy. Please pray for all these opportunities, and pray for God’s peace, shalom, to inhabit our world.

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