This past Sunday, Christ Church, along with its Refugee Ministry partners, held an Interfaith Prayer Vigil at St. John’s Ellicott City. It was a moving service, rich with a repertoire of prayers, chants, music, and addresses. I don’t remember being at an interfaith prayer vigil and feeling so good about the human story - yes, your story, and mine.
As complicated as our human story may be, there’s something to be said about the possibilities that await us if we are to see each other through the lens of our own humanity. In a very powerful way, that’s what makes compassion possible, and in his submission, the Imam quoted these words from the Koran: “There’s no good in the one who doesn’t practice compassion.” The actual word he said isn’t even compassion; it is much richer and deeper than that. In fact, there’s no English expression of that Arabic word.
I want to share with you an expanded form of the reflections I shared at the Prayer Vigil:
We gather tonight in celebration of a love that binds all people and doesn’t discriminate between white and black, slave or free, hungry or full, rich or poor. It doesn’t discriminate over your religious identity - Jew, Christian, Hindu, Moslem - or if you have faith or no faith at all. That love simply calls you to discipleship, and the joy of being a disciple speaks to me in a very powerful way.
There’s an African cliché, which says, If you think you are too small to make a difference, spend a night with a mosquito.
The disciple understands the challenges, the barriers, the walls, and even the narrative that holds them back from realizing his or her potential to make a difference - but those are never enough. The disciple finds a way to bring light, hope, renewal, and transformation to the darkest places of our human story.
There’s great joy in seeing all of you here tonight. And I cannot thank you enough for being here to pray, sing, and sit - not with familiar people, or pray familiar prayers, or sing familiar songs you sing during worship but to hear and pray unfamiliar prayers, sing unfamiliar songs, and sit by unfamiliar people. The ability to dwell with the unfamiliar is where the real challenge of the gospel lies. Remember Jesus’ wise words: “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
The truth is, if only I can be free enough to be that joyful disciple whose only desire is to seek the well-being of all who languish at the margins of our world.
If only I can be free enough to be that joyful disciple whose only desire is to possess the hands of Midas, where everything that he or she touches turns to gold. Not because this joyful disciple is a magician, but rather because this joyful disciple believes in the transformation that is made possible when ordinary people chose to respond to the needs of ordinary people. This joyful disciple believes that their duty to love isn’t limited to those they know but it is as expansive as the world itself and all that dwells therein. More importantly, this joyful disciple believes that the glory of God is made manifest through their life and actions.
St. Irenaeus once said that The glory of God is a human being fully alive.
My questions for you are, are you alive? Do you feel yourself to be alive - alive enough to exude the glory of God?
You don’t have to feel yourself to be alive to have life. The sad reality is that you can be alive but have no life because you are so consumed with yourself and your own needs.
The joyful disciple is anyone who feels so alive because they brim with the glory of God. And this joyful disciple brings to life the glory of God by turning lives around, filling the emptiness in the lives of others, bringing laughter to our sadness, wiping our tears away, motivating us into joyful giving, and shepherding us through life’s perilous shadows. In fact, the joyful disciple is never consumed by themselves nor their own needs.
It is my sincere belief that it is when we dedicate ourselves to God that the glory of God becomes manifest - that is, when we become alive and, as Paul said, that is when the joyful disciple does not grow weary in doing what is right nor grows weary in pursuing acts that bring forth the glory of God in us.
Carl Jung, the noted Swiss psychiatrist, once wrote that “I am not what has happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”
And so, on this day, what do you choose to become?
It is my fervent prayer that you will choose to become that joyful disciple who is so alive with compassion that they have no problem being a mosquito.
Please read the article about the service: ‘United We Pray’: Interfaith Howard County community comes together to support refugees and sponsor an Afghan family – Baltimore Sun