Romans 15:4-13

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name”; and again he says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”; and again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him”; and again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope.”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:4-13

I don’t know how many Lutheran congregations in the United States share a parking lot with a conservative Jewish synagogue but we do at Faith Lutheran Church in Houston. Congregation Brith Shalom is right next door; 4610 Bellaire Blvd. right next door to 4600 Bellaire Blvd.

I first showed up at Faith in January of 2011. Of all the religious institutions along our street, and in our local community, guess who was the one and only one who reached out to welcome me, invite me to his office, and take some time to begin a relationship? Rabbi Teller from Brith Shalom.

Of all the religious institutions in our community, guess which one invited me to participate this past fall in an interfaith panel discussion on prayer? Rabbi Teller as he gathered people on the eve of their High Holy Days with a desire to encourage them to make the most of the spiritually significant time they were soon to share.

Paul would smile at this.

Mutual welcoming. Mutual hospitality. Mutual encouragement. Mutual efforts to repair the torn fabric of creation. Making the world a healthier, more hospitable, more holy space. Seeing the Christian faith grafted on to the ancient stump of Jesse. Seeing the promise of God spoken first to Abraham being realized and fulfilled as people of faith are knit together by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. This is beautiful.

Consider then the disastrous results through the ages of people refusing to live in God’s will, playing divide and conquer, join our team or die. Today, of course, is December 7th. The day that will live in infamy.

On this day, in 1941, the United States was attacked in Pearl Harbor. On the same day, also in 1941, German SS officers and Latvian firing squads began a slaughter of the Jews of Riga,Latvia.  Between December 7 and December 9, 1941, 25,000 people, German Jews and Latvian Jews, were put to death by firing squads.

Americans remember December 7th as the beginning of our entry into WW II. At that point, European Jews had already been enduring the horrors of the Holocaust for nine long brutal years.

We wonder today how anyone could have allowed such atrocities to happen. Look around. It is never as complicated as word salad makes it. We reject God’s admonition and invitation to love our neighbor. We dehumanize and scapegoat and destroy. We can do better.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, from the very beginning your intention was to bless all the nations, all the peoples, of the world. Jesus broke down the dividing walls of hostility. Now you call us to do the same, capable though we are, and will always be, of doing just the opposite. Keep us steadfast and diligent in showing hospitality to strangers, in welcoming one another, in loving our neighbor, for only in this will the promise of peace be realized in your world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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