The View from Bolton Street

Isaiah 25:6-8

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples

a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines

of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.

And he will destroy on this mountain

the shroud that is cast over all peoples,

the sheet that is spread over all nations;

he will swallow up death forever.

Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,

and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,

for the Lord has spoken.

You would be forgiven for reading this passage from Isaiah and thinking to yourself, ‘Sounds great God. But WHEN!’  Somehow the promise of a beloved community, all knitted together, where everyone can eat their fill and death is swallowed up forever is particularly hard to imagine this week. Locally, we are ending another month with more than a murder a day, nationally we had a number of violent incidents, including last Saturday’s tragic shooting at the ‘Tree of Life’ Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, there are no shortage of voices seeking to amplify the calls for violence, intimidation and fear.  We are constantly reminded of ‘dangerous caravans’, ‘violent mobs’, ‘danger youths’, and all sorts of evils that one would hope were long past us.

The irony of course is that most Americans are safer than ever; that the migrant caravan is no threat at all; that the ‘dangerous youths’ are usually carrying squeegees and window cleaner. The deeper irony is that those who are put at risk by such dangerous rhetoric are the most vulnerable among us: ethnic, religious, racial and other minorities. We saw it in Pittsburgh and Kentucky this week. And we see it in Baltimore every week, where even as murders continue to rise, it almost entirely effects only one small portion of the population - young black males.

But the factual reality of our actual safety is of little comfort to how we feel. Which is often unsettled, unmoored, lost, alone. The dream of Isaiah’s peaceable kingdom seems very far away. 

But you know what? We as Christians, and as members of Memorial, have the ability to make this true every day. Or at least once a week. Whenever you walk in the doors of Memorial Church you become part of that Beloved Community. No one is richer or poorer than the next. Salvation is a gift freely given. The table is open to all. And after there is Coffee hour! 

Now, we know that we aren’t perfect. Not everyone feels equally welcome at the table. Our congregation skews older, liberal, white and upper middle class; and we can do more to make sure people who aren’t like us feel welcome too.  But every Sunday we come out and work a little harder to be ‘That Beloved Community’ and we get a little closer.

This week, I hope you will do something to get to know or support someone different from you.  To be a living symbol of ‘the Beloved Community’ and of Memorial! Whether you #Showupforshabbat at Beth Am on Saturday, or join our joint service with St. Katherine of Alexandria on Sunday, or go out and knock on doors with No Boundaries or BUILD this weekend to encourage people to vote, or just saying hello to a neighbor down the street you have never met, it all is part of the practice of becoming the beloved community - and making Isaiah’s vision our reality.