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I compose and post these articles with only one desire in my heart: to praise God and to offer modest help on your spiritual journey.

Friday, August 19, 2016

FRIEND OR ENEMY

Sunday the 24th of August I had the privilege and pleasure of
representing "mainline" Christian churches at our interfaith
celebration of "Loving Kindness". Particularly I was asked to speak
for Catholics, Episcopalians, and Lutherans.

This event was the second interfaith celebration sponsored by KUPA,
Kingman United Pastoral Association. The first gathering was in
January. It was a show of unity for peace in the new year.

In addition to myself serving the Catholic community are
representatives from the Episcopalians, Lutherans and Muslim faiths.
New to our association which also includes a retired but very active
military chaplain are the rabbi for Jews in Flagstaff and the
president of the Kingman Stake for Latter Day Saints.

One participant remarked during the question and rs answer session
that this event "was a taste of heaven, the way we should be". I
couldn't agree more.

I was quoted in the paper as having said: ""It would be far more
difficult if you were my enemy, than my friend". Since this quote was
a bit out of context I would like to expand on what I had shared.

Taking Luke 6:32-36 as my text for the evening I want to first recall
these challenging words: "If you love those who love you, what credit
is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do
good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even
sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to
receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to
receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend,
expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will
be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the
wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

These words are the most difficult, if not challenging, words for
anyone who calls themselves a Christian. Simply put, it places a very,
very high bar for anyone to jump over.

Certainly it can be difficult enough to always love our friends let
alone family. If that weren't true there would be no need for
confession. But this is what we expect from family and friends. Gangs
are a perfect example that even sinners do the same.

But loving our enemy, now that is a different story.

I prefaced my commentary on the obvious historical facts of who we
were representing. Each of our faiths have been bloody enemies of one
another at one time or another in history. Much blood and violence has
been heaped on each other over the centuries. There is not one among
us who have not persecuted or been persecuted.

There are plenty of our brother and sisters of faith still promoting
opposition and division. That is why it was such a blessed and holy
event that we stood on holy ground to profess that we are no longer
enemies but friends. We bear witness that religion is no excuse for
hate or violence.

Since the bar for loving one's enemies is so much higher and far more
difficult than loving our friends, I am happy to call these brothers
and sisters of different faiths my friends.

Although I didn't say it that night, but I am further touched by these
words of Jesus that he calls us "children of the Most High". Note,
that this title serves us well in interfaith dialogue since it can be
claimed by us all without exception.

Let us then be mindful of these words to be "merciful" (a particular
favorite title of the Most High in Islam). Let us recognize that God's
kindness extends to the ungrateful and the wicked and so how can we
fail to be merciful to our brothers and sisters who pray to the one
same "Most High"?

We look forward to celebrating the growth of our friendship and
offering this witness of unity and love in the future. Perhaps twice a
year would be practical as the numbers attending have grown from a
hundred to three hundred.

Pray for our association, pray for our community and our nation
especially in these contentious times of elections. Pray with us, that
this little light of ours can shine into the darkness of our world.

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