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A Pastoral Letter from the Rector

8/31/2017

A Pastoral Letter from the Rector

 

31 August 2017

Dear Members and Friends of Immanuel:

Like everyone I know, I was saddened and horrified by the events leading up to, occurring during, and following the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville on August 12th.  From a Christian perspective, and from a citizen’s perspective, there are so many things to condemn, but there is also much to affirm.

A core belief of the three great monotheistic religions - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, - is that all human beings are made in the image of God:  “in the image of God He created them;male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27).  Our Declaration of Independence lists this among the “self-evident” truths, that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”

Our Christian faith would tell us that any time any race or ethnicity proclaims itself as superior to another that false proclamation flies in the face of this basic, foundational tenet of our faith.  When our Lord was asked who constituted a neighbor deserving of respect and care, He told the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), where the unexpected, foreign passer-by, the Samaritan, was the one who stopped to help the man who had been robbed and beaten and left for dead.  Jesus then asked those in the crowd who had behaved as a neighbor.  They answered, of course, that the Samaritan had.  Jesus then commanded them to “go and do likewise.” 

One of the beautiful aspects of the Christian faith, in particular, is the belief that all, “whosoever will” (Revelation 22:7), may choose to follow Christ and become a Christian.  Unlike a tribal, ethnic, or national religion, Christianity is meant to welcome any and all.  From the mightiest Kings and Queens to the poorest of the poor, people have found life, light, and salvation in Jesus’s words and in the fellowship of believers.  We as Christians and followers of Jesus must, then, reject any notion of white supremacy, or the supremacy of any race, as antithetical to our faith.  The Epistle to the Hebrews further instructs us to “not to forget to practice hospitality, for by doing so some have entertained angels unawares”  (Hebrews 13:2).          

I wonder whether we as followers of Jesus have ever really caught hold of the amazing, egalitarian, all-encompassing reach of His invitation and embrace.  Can we all set aside our race and ethnicity and other outwardly-defining characteristics, to define ourselves as children of God?  That simple, convincing, and convicting truth rings with such authenticity to me, and I think it could speak to all of us in these days, whatever our race or ethnicity.  All are made in the image of God, all are our neighbors, and we are called to treat them as such, with care and with respect. 

At every Baptism we are asked: “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” And we answer:  “I will, with God’s help.”  (Book of Common Prayer, page 305).  I’m glad that response includes “with God’s help.”  It is so honest in admitting that, left to our own devices, we might quickly pursue our own selfish ways, or ways defined by fear of the other.  So often our faith’s admonitions to love, justice, forgiveness, and peace can sound rather simplistic or out of touch.  This recent national experience may serve to remind us that we are in a universal struggle between good and evil, and that we are always called to examine which side we are supporting.

What we saw in the streets of Charlottesville was evil at work.  Evil seeks to tear down, to separate, and to sow fear and hatred.  One of the ways that fear has taken root and flourished across the millennia of human history is in the fear and distrust of anyone considered to be different, or other.  Perhaps this is an opportune time for each of us, and for all of us, to seek out some folks who are different from us, so that we may be reminded of our essential sameness.  We might also benefit from their take on life, and even from their experience of God.           

We will be celebrating Homecoming Sunday at Immanuel on September 10th, with a visiting Bishop, Confirmation, and our always-amazing Homecoming potluck lunch.  What a vital time to gather as a community, to re-kindle our fellowship, and to renew our individual and collective call to follow Jesus and to work ceaselessly towards the spread of God’s Kingdom of love, salvation, justice, and peace.  It may often seem like we as individuals can do so little.  But when the roughly 1,000 of us who are associated with Immanuel work together, we can be a mighty force for good.  This is also a perfect time for each of us to look around and identify someone who might be looking for a Church home, someone who could benefit from our Christian fellowship, and invite them to “come and see” (John 1:39).          

I thank God for the witness of our Christian faith, and I thank God for our fellowship at Immanuel. 

See you in Church, especially at Homecoming,

Randy

The Rev. J. Randolph Alexander, Jr.

Rector


8/12/2017
Volunteers Needed for Homecoming Potluck September 10
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