“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” [Colossians 3:15]
On Tuesday evening, Michael and I and about 500 diverse Calgarians stood in solidarity with our city’s Jewish community, and the whole Jewish people of North America after the massacre in Pittsburgh. It was as if we needed to say, “we are with you, and we will fight against anything like that happening here.” It was an incredible experience.
Framed by prayers and sung canticles in Hebrew, speakers from the Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Ismaili and Zen Buddhist communities said, again and again, “anti-semitism is wrong.” One Imam sung a prayer of mourning for the Jewish dead in Arabic. Christians spoke out against anti-semitism, using words of Jesus that were long overlooked in the centuries of hatred and violence we have committed against our Jewish cousins. One Lutheran Pastor read a document from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (Prince of Faith’s denomination), which utterly rejects the virulent anti-semitism of Martin Luther (a message Pastor Reg also shared on Sunday morning, I understand). This Pastor acknowledged the Lutheran Church’s historical shame that Hitler quoted Luther’s theology in justifying the Holocaust, and that the Lutheran Church in Germany did not stand in solidarity with the Jews. [We should note that Hitler also quoted Scripture - there are ample passages in the New Testament that Christians have used over the centuries to justify violence against Jews. We must keep watch for how we relate to these passages.] Statements were read from the Catholic Bishop, from the Calgary Alliance for the Common Good, and from several national Muslim organizations, all condemning any violence which targets people simply because of their faith - especially when those people are at prayer. It was a deeply moving event.
There was a question raised again and again - particularly by the Jewish leaders who spoke: what will we do to make sure Calgary is not a place where this kind of violence happens? And again and again the answer was the same: all of us must do what we can; everything we can.
This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of All Saints, which is a feast that asks us how we are called into deeper discipleship in the midst of our daily lives. Then the following Sunday we commemorate Remembrance Day and the end of World War I, which was supposed to be “the War to end all wars”. And here we are, asked and challenged to figure out what we, each of us, can do to help prevent racial and religious violence here in Calgary. Mayor Naheed Nenshi said it so beautifully (and I wish I could recall his exact words!) - he said that we create between us the relationships and the attitudes and the culture of this city - from which springs peace, or from which can spring violence. And we do this in our everyday interactions with one another. How we, collectively, as a city, conduct ourselves with one another can build us up, or tear us apart.
Friends, as we think about our own calls to deeper discipleship on Sunday at the Feast of All Saints, and as we prepare ourselves for our Remembrance Day commemorations, when we celebrate all those individuals who have taken steps to protect the innocent and overcome evil, let each of us think about what the Mayor said. That each of us holds in our own hands the power to build up, or tear down - in simple words and actions, every day. And let us hear the call of God in our lives, and make good, peace-seeking choices. Let us make this a city where racial and religious violence is less likely to happen.
God bless friends,