From the Rector
On Wednesdays in Lent, we’ve been exploring one of the simplest questions asked of Jesus, which elicited from him one of his greatest of all teachings. “Who is my neighbor,” someone once asked him, after he had reminded those gathered around him of the command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” To which Jesus responds with a subversive parable about “the right people” doing nothing to help a person in desperate need, and “the wrong person” instead responding with profound, reckless compassion (Luke 10:25-37).
The past few weeks we’ve welcomed guest speakers to explore this question, “Who is my neighbor,” from a variety of angles, helping us connect with Jesus’ remarkable and provocative story in our own day. Even though we’ve likely all been taught about just how shocking it would have been for Jesus to use a Samaritan as the moral example in the day, sometimes it helps to draw contemporary parallels to help us really connect with the radical nature of Jesus’ instruction. So, in week one, Pastor George Mason of Wilshire Baptist Church spoke about how “our neighbor” includes people who do not share our politics, and he offered wisdom to guide us in our efforts to do more than quietly tolerate people who vote differently than we do.
In week two, Bill Holston, Executive Director of the Human Rights Initiative, and someone who has provided legal assistance to asylum seekers for 30 years, spoke about the plight of people fleeing violence and danger around the world. He talked about the remarkable courage of these people, who have lived in nightmarish places of torture and brutality, and deserve to be seen as “neighbors” rather than as objects of fear, derision, or contempt.
This week, we welcomed Pastor Michael Waters of Joy Tabernacle AME Church, who helped us connect Jesus’ profound story about loving our neighbors with the movement for racial justice and equity. He delivered a powerful summary of our city’s history of white supremacy, from the lynchings that happened in the early 1900s, to the largest ever initiation of KKK members in our nation that happened at the State Fair of Texas in 1922, to the formalization of “red lines” in the 1930s that kept black and brown citizens geographically separated in ghettos (later assisted by the concrete barricade of I-30), to the effort in the 1960s and 70s to abandon south Dallas financially, administratively, and educationally. Then he helped us grapple with the way Dallas is still the Dickensian “tale of two cities” even today, as a comprehensive recent study revealed the way our city ranks dead last of all major metropolitan areas in the racial equity of the economic recovery from the Great Recession. Pastor Waters challenged us to consider the parable and see how far we have to go, as a city and as individual Christians, in dealing with the sin of racism and really treating the people of south Dallas as our neighbors.
I encourage you to listen to these talks, if you weren’t there in person. They were profound and challenging and inspiring. They brought Jesus’ teaching to life in new and important ways. And I very much hope you’ll join us for the final two sessions in coming weeks, as we continue to wrestle with Jesus’ parable about our holy obligations to one another, and the need to stretch our imaginations to love in braver, bigger, and bolder ways.
See you this weekend.