This sermon happened both on All Saints Day and one week after the Synagogue Shooting in Pittsburgh. Worship is the communal practice that shapes us into particular communities, AND ALSO unites us across religious boundaries to the infinite, eternal flame of God’s Shalom.
I did not write a manuscript for this sermon. It is the combination of two blog posts:
- All Hallow’s Eve | A Meditation on All Saints Day Worship
- Shabbat Shalom | Standing in Solidarity with our Jewish Siblings
This is the heart of the second post:
On Sunday, the day after the shooting, she put on a Kippah for the first time. The Kippah is the small, circular head covering traditionally worn by Jewish men. Rabbi Zimmerman is a progressive Jew and said, “I never thought it was a big deal, you know, it was such a masculine symbol. But, thanks to my friend, a black, Christian minister, I now realize how important it is to claim my identity as a Jew.”
She went on to speak of how the philosopher Plato gave us the wrong idea of unity. He said that ultimately we are all part of the same thing, that our differences are illusions. This is not true. Our unity is not found in the blending of our differences into sameness. Unity is found in the reality of both/and (this is a wonderfully Lutheran idea as well). Our unity is BOTH in the recognition and dignity of our differences, AND in our ability to reach across the divide and work together in the sameness of our humanity.
In the sermon I said something that could get me in trouble in many Christian circles:
When you see me, I want you to see a Christian. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I believe Jesus is the revelation of God. I am not ashamed of that…
…I believe that the infinite cannot be contained in our theological boxes and language. We are called to reach out across the barriers of difference and unite in our collective humanity.
The peace of God—Shalom—is not a vapid ideal of non-conflict. It is a weighty, substantive presence of God’s love that is the medium in which life is sustained.
There are many similarities between a synagogue and a Lutheran place of worship. One similarity that jumped out at me was the presence of an eternal flame. We don’t speak much of it in our services, but it is there, burning on the chancel.
The flame represents the presence of God—God’s love: Shalom.
It burns in the synagogue, in the Christian place of worship, in the center of every atom that constitutes this universe.