Come the holidays, millions of periodic worshipers return to church inspired to reconnect with their faith and to regain spiritual grounding.
However, in these tumultuous times faith can seem elusive amid a world left weary by politicized religion, divisive rhetoric, terrorism, skepticism, and an ever-growing distrust of leaders, icons and institutions.
Yet, it is often in the darkest most disorienting moments that faith can be rediscovered, and truly embraced. And it may – or may not – come from time spent in a house of worship.
I think the best way to rekindle faith is to be in places where faith can find us. I’m not simply writing to invite you to a mosque or synagogue or church. I’m inviting you to places where people of faith gather and participate in the movement of progression and inclusion we are working hard to achieve.
We urge people of faith and good will to take solace and comfort in the fact that there is a strong current of inclusion, unity, acceptance and celebration of faith among the faithful in the places we gather.
We as a community of faithful have made significant strides to counteract negative forces of division and hate with inclusion and belonging and are working together for a time of unity.
You may know that Lutherans are completing a year of grand celebrations surrounding the 500th Anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. What I am hoping is that in the coming years we will move from that historic grounding we have commemorated toward greater cooperation with people of faith in ecumenical and inter-religious movements.
There is a great commitment among leaders of various communities of faith to engage progressive advances at the grassroots level, to promote tolerance, and to encourage people to flourish in a new and needed age of community. The amazing strides between Lutherans and Roman Catholics point to this.
There is a strong desire and willingness to work on welcoming all people in a spirit of generous hospitality. As a Lutheran I can say that many of my tribe are engaged in ministry with the LGBTQ communities. In our own Synod here in Metropolitan New York, we are working to address the systemic racism which is America’s original sin. We are strongly speaking out in opposition to the anti-Semitism and Islamophobia all around us. We are engaged with faithful people in our own country and around the world in addressing the abuses of power we see every day. We find our faith and inspiration through these initiatives and we welcome all to join us in this progression.
There are also remarkable efforts at offering God’s welcome to immigrants and asylum-seekers and refugees, though we certainly look for more such opportunities in the face of governmental resistance. We will work actively to participate in inclusive welcome, as our Lord Jesus was himself a refugee.
There are local congregations in which people of faith are welcoming people of all races and nations, one of the great gifts of the amazing communities in which we live.
We urge people of faith and good will to take solace and comfort in the fact that there is a strong current of inclusion, unity, acceptance and celebration of faith among the faithful in the places we gather – houses of worship, communities.
This is the message we as spiritual leaders want to convey to people of faith – especially now in the most holy time of year and in a time where our collective faith has been tested by so much societal malice.
There is a growing movement in communities of faith that are addressing this age of terror and division head on and are working together for peace. There are many positive changes in spiritual communities and very specific initiatives we are implementing to instill unity, respect and inclusion.
The call to action is to partake in these changes. Rediscover your faith by working as an active participant with us in the community to welcome the stranger without fear - but with the same kind of faith that our ancestors experienced when they reached these shores and were welcomed by the first nations people.
This is a time where there is a renewed and invigorated commitment to practicing a faith that is intimately connected with “peace on earth,” the gift of wholeness that is truly the meaning of shalom.
There is hope and positive change for the common good is in play. We urge you to take an active role in the momentum we are creating in the community as people of faith.
And while we do not have all the answers, of course, we are faithful in responding to the terror all around, knowing that God is with us and guiding us into a new day of faith when war and hardship and suffering and oppression will be no more.