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"Passionately Christian and Compassionately Inter-religious"©

Presently, I am taking a course on world religions entitled "Passionately Christian and Compassionately Inter-religious." It is facilitated by Dr. Sathianathan Clarke, a professor with Wesley Theological Seminary.

I decided to take this course because I do believe in the name of the LLC I started:

"Jesus Friends Are Our Friends Too."

When I take a look at my friendship journey, I realize I don't have many friends who claim a different religion. I have a few Jewish acquaintances, one Islamic friend, a few relatives who are atheist, agnostic, and a few persons who refer to themselves as none when it comes to religion.

Even among Christians, the word religious has become a dirty word. For instance, followers of Jesus often shout with pride, I'm not religious! I'm spiritual! I understand. Under the name Religion, nations have spilt drops of blood called wrong doing, broken-ness, dysfunction, disease, destruction, oppression, violence, injustice, genocide.

When it comes to religion, I confess I have a lot of growing to do. I understand little about other religions and I'm still coming to grips with my own. For instance, I claim to be all about relational evangelism yet, I have hesitated to get to know, really know persons of different religions.

As part of the course, "Passionately Christian and Compassionately Inter-religious", I'm reading two books: "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World and Why Their Differences Matter" by Stephen Prothero and "Holy Envy" by Barbara Brown Taylor. (I highly recommend them both.)

I want to highlight a comment Dr. Clarke shared that really caught my attention.

During the first class online conversation, Dr. Sathi Clarke said,

"The embrace of Jesus frees us to be part of the world; being let go and freed so we can be part of what Christ wants for the whole world. Many Christians want refuge and to be babied by Jesus…Accept the embrace of Jesus and be ready for freeing to engage with specific local communities accepting freeing as a work of grace: secured grace and free grace, set free to be part of international community... Remember Jesus left the ninety-nine to go in search of the one.”

Holy Creator of all, help me become more willing to get to know, really know persons of different religions. Love made known in Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, breathe through me. Give me your listening ears and healing heart. Help me care more about persons I have tended to treat as lesser than. For too long, I have cared more about being right than I have about being in right relationship. Ignoring persons of other religions has kept me from fully seeing you triune God.

Could discovering my best self, my Christ-like self, be revealed more clearly when I get to know and recognize strangers of other religions as kin?

Holy Spirit, help me view the formation of inter-religious relationships similar to ways I might enjoy a banquet feast. Help me dare to taste the perceptions of other religions. Give me a curious palate.

As I do, remind me to partake frequently of eucharist. Flavors of eucharist give me the courage to sit at table with persons who have not yet knelt at the feet of Jesus. Perhaps my new table friends will never choose to sit at the feet of Jesus in ways I hope they will. Can we still sit at table together hoping as we get to know each other we will become more familiar with each other's beliefs, perceptions, hopes, dreams, challenges, humanity?

Unless I and other followers of Jesus care enough to sit at table and get to know persons who have little or no interest in getting to know Jesus, how can I claim to be a faithful disciple of Jesus?

Do I desire to treat my relationship with Jesus as nothing more than one of comfort, one in which Jesus babies me?

Will I dare to cooperate with sanctifying grace as much as I cooperate with justifying grace?

Will I discover the joy of feeling so much compassion for persons of other religions the compassion flavors our conversations, our journey toward intimacy?

Will I invite the flavors of eucharist: being taken as I am, being blessed as I am, being broken to self-sufficiency to rise in Christ, being given a new way of being and loving so I dare to be given a way?

In what ways does the vision called heavenly banquet influence table fellowship today?

Will I dare to rise to new life by breaking bread with persons of other religions including the ones who claim none?

This takes me back in time to Beit Sahour. Beit Sahour is one of the shepherd's fields located near Bethlehem. Several years ago, I was part of a United Methodist Volunteers in Mission journey there. When I was in Bethlehem and the surrounding shepherd's fields, I was invited into the homes of Palestinian Muslims to share strong and sweet Arabian coffee. I felt as close to Jesus in those Palestinian Muslim homes as I ever have in every Christian sanctuary in which I have worshipped!

When I was there, I discovered Moderate Muslims gathered with Christians and Jews once a week at the Greek Catholic Church in Beit Sahour. They met to build relationships. They discussed what the three monotheistic faiths had in common. They sought to embody practices that would lead to Shalom and as salaam.

With the horrific war occurring in Gaza now, I wonder if they still meet...

As I get to know persons of other religions better, deep down I know that the compassionate making whole agape revealed in and through Jesus will come alive in our midst.

For the love of God leaps off the cross revealing One God who loves the world so much the gift he offers is his only begotten Son, Jesus of Nazareth, fully human, fully God. He embodies the suffering of humanity in one moment, the atonement, for all time.

Jesus enters our space so we may enter his revealing a new vision of what it means to be whole, human.

One way we are empowered to enter into God's place occurs when we care enough to get to know persons of other religions. We leave the ninety-nine to find the one!

I believe the future of humanity depends upon the willingness of persons of all religions coming together. Hopefully, we can help the world discover what a lasting and just peace can look like.

Of course, I believe this feast we call wholeness and peace, the koinonia we know as holy communion, the Christ flavored relating that leads to holy community formation, is made possible in the Word made flesh: One Bread, One Body, One Lord of all.

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