A Message from Rev. Guthrie
On March 18th I attended a vigil at the Islamic Center of Greater Lafayette. Days before a gunman had entered two mosques in New Zealand and murdered 50 worshipers in what was claimed as an act of white supremacy. That night at the vigil, I listened to several speakers including Mayor John Dennis, Pastor Lana Robyne of the Wesley foundation at Purdue, and Rabbi Mike Harvey of Temple Israel each speak of the tragedy, and it's impact on the great Lafayette community. But the messages that stood out the most came from two young Muslim women, one the student present of the Islamic Center, and the other a 15 year old high school student in West Lafayette. Each shared stories about their sense of numbness at the news of another act of violence; each was searching for a glimmer of hope in this situation. I cannot even imagine what it must be like to live in a world in which your religious beliefs and practices mark you in such a way that it is not possible to feel safe. That fact made it that much more amazing that each was willing to stand up and share their feelings, their fears, and their hopes for the world.
There are lots of divisions in our world. It's easy to look at the diversity of a community like Lafayette, especially with the large international community at Purdue, and think about how we are blessed with many different kinds of people in this place. But we have to be aware of the ways in which members of marginal communities have to worry about things like racism and white supremacy. For the vast majority of us, the diversity of our community is a gift. It is something we wouldn't trade for the world. And yet, for the members the Muslim, there is a fear that even just one outlier, one person with the wrong ideas, puts them at risk.
Jesus lived during a time of great diversity. There were Jews and Samaritans and Romans and Syrophonicians. If they did interact, it was in very regulated ways. And you definitely didn't want to get caught with
people, members of communities outside of your own. But Jesus went out of his way to get to know
people. He approached them at wells, or stopped when they beckoned to him. He healed their loved ones, and spoke of them as the most faithful in all of Israel. Even as they were not a part of his tribe, Jesus showed them not only respect and dignity, but walked along with them, joined with them in their place. There were those who, when Jesus approached, had trepidation. They knew that this Jew coming to talk with them was not the way in which it was supposed to be, that there could be precautions for doing so. Jesus came anyways.
This is our lesson from Jesus: there are divisions in the world, and we shouldn't seek to erase them. And at the same time, we are called to make sure that our walk brings us into relationship with those who are different. In the current climate in our world, it is especially important to make sure that our walk as Christians brings us into relationship with people like those who participate at the Islamic Center of Greater Lafayette. Without knowing our neighbors, we cannot understand the challenges they face. And without those relationships, community on the margins of our society will continue to live in fear, not knowing whether or not they will be welcomed and protected here. It is up to us to follow the walk of Jesus and move towards these members of our community.