Preparing for Worship

by | May 3, 2024 | Preparing For Worship

A beautiful thread of love runs through our worship this morning. Our Young Musicians sing of spreading kindness, our Gospel reading reminds us to love one another and the choral offertory offers a prayer of restoration and peace to all. When we are gathered for worship, God’s message and commandment to love feels easy, but outside this space, in the messy, divisive world, loving the stranger, the enemy — loving all of humanity — can be quite complicated.

In her book “See No Stranger,” Sikh activist Valarie Kaur calls us to commit to “revolutionary love,” which she defines as the choice to labor for others, our opponents and ourselves. Despite our best efforts, we carry unconscious biases that cause us to be suspicious of the stranger and condemning of the enemy and prevent us from loving all of humanity. Othering is pervasive, and we become vulnerable to creating irreconcilable gaps between ourselves and those we see as the other.

Psychologist Susan Fiske has demonstrated with brain imaging that our brains process members of ‘out-groups,’ people who are different from us, as nonhuman, and the areas that activate in the brain are those activated when viewing something of disgust. Our propensity to “other” is a reflex of our neural biology.

Kaur’s response is to see others with curiosity and wonder, because once people stop wondering about others, once they no longer see others as part of themselves, they disable their instinct for empathy. In the Sikh tradition, one approaches others by acknowledging that they are a part of themselves they do not yet know. Wondering about a stranger’s favorite meal or the childhood nickname of your enemy creates familiarity and commonality, which makes love possible. It allows us to see past our differences and honor the image of God that is present in all. It is not easy, and often boundaries are important, but it is necessary. We are called to love one another as Christ loves us and to see the other as somebody, even as a part of ourselves. We are called to the work of justice and bringing the Good News into the world.

As we worship today and live in this brutal and beautiful (brutiful?) world, may we lead with curiosity and wonder as we encounter the stranger, and may we live into revolutionary love.