Micah 4:4-5 (NRSV)
4 but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees,
and no one shall make them afraid;
for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.
5 For all the peoples walk,
each in the name of its god,
but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God
forever and ever.
East Tennessee friends,
Last week, I attended the House of Bishops at Kanuga Conference Center in western North Carolina. The focus of our time together was on The Way of Love, the call issued by our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to focus on a personal and communal life of seven practices for a Jesus-centered life. I believe Bishop Curry’s invitation to practice such a life has the potential to renew the Episcopal Church and the communities where we live, serve, and worship.
At the end of our week, however, news from New Zealand reminded us that there is another way in our world – the way of hate. The New Zealand terrorist attack on mosques, on people gathered for prayer, is demonic and is the latest example that we live in a time when the stranger, the other, is seen as less than human, and less than worthy of dignity and respect and basic decency. From the promises we make as a community of the baptized, we reject this evil and promise to respect the dignity of all. All includes Christian, Muslim, Jew, person of faith and no faith. All makes for a big circle.
Yesterday, we heard a gospel reading where Jesus spoke of Herod as a fox. Herod desired to kill Jesus. In contrast, Jesus spoke of himself as a mothering hen, a vulnerable one willing to protect the most vulnerable. The way of hate, of bigotry and demonic distortions of the stranger, must be continually confronted with the way of love. The way of love remains a divine journey, where we daily embody another way, that includes all our neighbors.
East Tennessee is a long way from New Zealand. In God’s world, however, we are neighbors. Muslims gathering for prayer were targeted and killed and wounded and traumatized. They are us. When we Episcopalians gather for prayer we walk again the Way of Love. We follow the mothering hen, not the killing fox.