New year, new friends. Sounds like a resolution doesn’t it? In a world of rising hate crime statistics it may be more like a revolution. Conversations, without the added agenda of conversion, maybe the weakest link in the chain of our loving our neighbor as ourselves. The adage ‘a stranger is just a friend I haven’t met’ seems like a wistful notion of days gone by, but it could prove to be the vibrant link our communities, and congregation need to survive, and thrive in these tumultuous times.
The Massachusetts Council of Churches crafted a statement; “To our neighbors who are Jewish, please know that we hold our relationships with you as sacred, that we stand in solidarity with you…indeed, antisemitism is not a Jewish problem, it is a Christian problem. Silence on this problem is both sanction and assistance.”
The Prince of Peace calls on us to provide examples of kindness, mercy, shelter, and safety. Indeed it is one thing for us to turn the other cheek, it is an extension of that to put our cheeks in harm’s way for the sake of another, whether the other is Jew, Muslim, Methodist, Mexican, disabled, homeless, elderly, or any other version of other. Our hearts, and by extension, our churches, ought to be a place of refuge for the dispossessed. The Good Shepherd tells us of the Good Samaritan. A story with tremendous political content in it time is still speaking to us today, if we but listen.
Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, author of “Surprised by God” encourages people to reach out to folks of other faiths, cultures, and abilities. In the likelihood meeting such people face to face is difficult due to geography or logistics she reminds us the internet, of all places, is available for bridge building between disparate perspectives and individuals.
We can make the new year new for ourselves by introducing health habits, we can make the year new, and hopeful, for others by introducing ourselves.