As I write this, it is a blustery day in the North Georgia Mountains. There is a possibility of snow overnight. I am grateful for this day as it is:
The wind is winding,
The rain is raining,
The clouds are clouding
And the Living God is watering earth.
It is so easy to be grateful for the weather on a Chamber of Commerce day when
Blue sky is bluing
The sun is sunning brightly
And the wind is winding calmly.
But we are to be grateful for what is because “what is” is the flaring forth of our Creator God. Advent tells us that the Living One is bringing us to completion as we are becoming the Christ—the Christ in our hearts and the Christ of the Cosmos.
Today’s readings are all about inclusion. Isaiah paints a picture of peace with all nations coming to the mountain of God. Jesus paints the same picture in Matthew where all will come to the heavenly banquet. We build fences and borders and try to hold onto our tribal gods who exclude those unlike us. In the beginning the Jews worshipped a tribal god who authorized the killing of the Canaanites during the conquest of Palestine. Isaiah knew he had to broaden their vision of God. Unfortunately, some modern day Israelis have not got the message as they justify the occupation of Palestine and the oppression of the Palestinian people. Rabbi Michael Lerner helps us overcomes our preconceived boundaries in his new book, Embracing Israel/Palestine: A Strategy to Heal and Transform the Middle East (http://www.amazon.com/Embracing-Israel-Palestine-Strategy-Transform/dp/1583943072/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1322487480&sr=1-1)
The Living God is a God of peace and justice for all peoples. Paul in Galatians 3:28 reminds us that there are no longer boundaries that divide, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, [gay or straight], for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Matthew’s story about the centurion seeking healing for his slave is about breaking down barriers. The centurion represented Roman oppression. But he too broke the boundaries. He approached an itinerant Jewish preacher-prophet and asked that his slave be healed. He saw the slave as more than a piece of property. He cared for him and had compassion on him. His faith made him and his slave whole in Christ.
If we are going to come to the mountain of the Living God to share in the Banquet, we have to break boundaries. We have to leave behind our tribal gods of exclusivity. We have to break the boundaries of nationalism, capitalism, racism, genderism, sexism, and homophobia. All are welcome at the table of the Living God. The Living God knows we are not worthy to come to the banquet but invites us anyway—gratuitous love.
I am reminded here of the movie The Way. The pilgrims walk the Camino de Santiago. They have to shed their self-centered preoccupations along the way. Eventually, they bond on a deep level because they have let go of boundaries.
I am reminded of Cardinal Cushing whom Cardinal Spellman looked down upon. John XXIII finally made him a cardinal to the dismay of Spellman. Cushing lowered the boom on Father Feeney who held that salvation was exclusive—available only to Catholics in good standing—no salvation outside the church. The other part of the story tells us why. Cushing dearly loved his sister who was married to a Jew. Cushing could not fathom that God would not “save” his brother-in-law. Here a loving relationship opened the door to inclusivity.
Relationships often challenge boundaries. Recently, in a discussion, I said that I had to over some homophobic tendencies in order to accept gays and lesbians. One participant blurted out, “God took care of that by giving me a lesbian daughter.” Love knows no boundaries.
Gratitude for what is will provide the footing for the journey to the Mountain of the Living God. Inclusive attitudes will pave the way. Love for God, oneself, one’s neighbor, and all of creation will lighten our load as we journey step by step toward the Risen Cosmic Christ.