We at Grace were honored to open our doors to brothers and sisters of the Islamic faith last night. We began with an interfaith program that included Christians worshiping in the Episcopal liturgy of Evening Prayer. Then, we moved into Parish Hall and shared in an Iftar dinner, the meal of breaking a daylong fast after sunset. Here are the remarks I shared with all gathered during the interfaith program.
It is an honor for us at Grace Episcopal Church to welcome friends of differing faith-- and friends of no faith--to this wonderful program tonight, and to co-host with our neighbors from the Turquois Center a Ramadan Iftar that we will all share after sunset.
All of this is a high honor for us, because we are Christian: which means we are people seeking God in the way of Jesus of Nazareth, who walked the earth approximately two-thousand years ago. We find in the life and teachings of Jesus, recorded in our Scriptures called the Gospels, a compelling witness for the life of love as the means by which what is lost and broken in this world made for good, may be redeemed and restored.
As a religion that springs from the Abrahamic tradition (something we share with our Muslim siblings), we find in the stories of Creation in Torah, that God made this world and all that is in it out of perfect Divine LOVE: that God created the world to be good, to be in balance, to be free from pain and shame, to be in perfect communion with the Divine.
Ultimately it is this origin in goodness, this perfect communion with the Divine at our beginning, that compels us to find in Jesus Christ a way to recover what is beautiful and true, as God intends.
I said that it is an honor to be here with all of you, because we are Christian. Why did I say this?
Because the way of Jesus, this life of love into which he calls us, is a path of extravagant hospitality toward others.
Our Scriptures record that Jesus once summarized all of Torah and all of the Hebrew Prophets with these words: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength," quoting from the Law itself. He added: "Love your neighbor as your very self. “ When asked by those around him to define who is one’s neighbor, Jesus took great pains to describe that all of one’s fellow human are neighbor, regardless of tribe or nationality or gender or religion. We are called to love our siblings in the human family, with not exception or limitation.
In this way, Christians are called beyond mere tolerance. We are called to embrace our neighbor, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Atheist, and everyone else! So our honor in your presence here emanates from our desire to be faithful Christians, growing in love for God and for our neighbors.
I am learning that hospitality is also an important value in Islam. And so, it is a double portion of joy for us to share this time and this space with you during Ramadan.
An evening of mutual hospitality.
The Rev. Scott Painter
I serve as the Vicar of Grace. A word from our English heritage in the Episcopal Church, "Vicar" means that I serve as the priest and pastor of this congregation.