Thursday, December 02, 2010

come, let us walk in the light of the lord: an interfaith dialogue in advent

It is an honor to share the message with Murray Ezring, friend, rabbi and spiritual leader of Temple Israel, our neighbor just to the south on Providence Road in Charlotte. It is remarkable that we share together in Advent, when we read and sing Israel’s promises and prophecies. Thank you, Murray taking part in interfaith Bible Studies with us over the past two years. We have worked through Genesis and Exodus and the Psalms together, you have welcomed us at the Seder meal and we have invited your people to our Easter Sunrise Service. Thank you for being with us now as we focus on God’s gift of hope.

Our dialogue leads me to ask three questions.

• What do the prophet’s words mean, “Come let us walk in the light of the Lord?”

We realize, every one of us, that as we walk this road we have not arrived our destination----every year we light the candles of hope and peace, joy, love and light, and yet every year we confess our for a greater sense of hope and not despair, peace and not separation, joy and not sadness, love and not resentment, light and not darkness. But, in honesty, we are a mixture of all of these qualities, and so we depend upon God, our refuge and strength.

• What do the words of the prophet mean for Jews and Christians who are friends?

What does it mean for Jews and Christians to walk together? For Christians, it might mean something like this: the light for us begins to shine in the stories of Israel’s faith…

• the voice of the Creator saying “Let there be light”,
• the appearance of the rainbow after the devastating flood in the time of Noah,
• the burning bush that caught the attention of Moses and led him to walk in a new path that would deliver his people from slavery.

This light, for Christians, gains even greater clarity when a star shines upon a village in Bethlehem, just a few miles from Jerusalem, when Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River and the light falls upon him, when he is transfigured, along with Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets, when he says, of himself, “I am the light of the world”, when he says to each of us, “you are the light of the world”.
The light is the Torah, the sacred story of Israel, and by the grace of God it shines upon us. An interfaith conversation gives us the opportunity to say, first, thanks to our Jewish brothers and sisters. They are the root systems that go deeply into these lifegiving waters and we live and flourish because of them…and we remember that each character we will focus on in the coming weeks---Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna, John the Baptist and Jesus himself---was a devout Jew who worshipped in a synagogue and waited for the promises to be fulfilled.

• And where does this interfaith dialogue take us?

This interfaith conversation challenges us to live out our convictions as faithfully as we can, so that others will be drawn to the light and life and love of Jesus, who is the prince of peace and the world’s light, because he seeks glory not for himself, but for his Father who is in heaven. And so with Jesus we approach all of this in humility.

And so, I appeal to all of us, in the days ahead, to hear and respond to the word of the prophet: “Come let us walk in the light of the Lord”.


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