My sisters and brothers,
On February 2, the church is about to celebrate the Feast of the Presention, when, according to Luke’s Gospel (Luke 2:22-40), on the fortieth day after his birth (you can count 40 from Christmas), according to Jewish custom, the baby Jesus was brought to the Temple in Jerusalem by Mary and Joseph to be presented to God as their first-born son. Simeon, an old man who had been praying daily in the temple for years, recognized immediately that Mary’s child was the Messiah, the one anointed to bring all God’s promises for the Jewish people to fulfillment.
The remarkable thing was that Simeon saw that Jesus was for everybody – not just for his own people but for all humanity. In Luke’s account he breaks out into a song that we repeat whenever we say Evening Prayer (Book of Common Prayer, p. 120):
“Lord, you have now sent your servant free
To go in peace as you have promised;
For these eyes of mine have seen the savior,
Whom you have prepared for all the earth to see:
A light to enlighten the nations,
And the glory of your people Israel.”
Clearly, this song is about the extension of God’s mercy out of ancient Israel to all people. It would be easy for us as non-Jewish Christians to think that this promise goes as far as us but no further.
We might think, for instance, that it does not apply to Muslims. But as Christians we are called to rejoice in the fact that the light of Christ shines for everyone, however it relates to us.
Over the last forty years that light has guided me steadily into fellowship with Jewish brothers and sisters, and eventually into relationship with deeply respected leaders in the Muslim community. Jesus calls us into deeper and deeper connection with other communities of faith.
This brings me to the disturbing events of the last few days, when it would seem that Muslims have been denied entry into this country on the basis of their faith. I understand that not all majority Muslim countries have been targeted by our president’s executive order, but the correlation seems to be clear, and I fear the consequences of this order for the Muslim community in this country.
I call on all who identify with the Diocese of Southern Ohio to take every opportunity to reassure our Muslim brothers and sisters of our care for and solidarity with them. One place you can go to get an American Muslim perspective on all this is the website for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, www.Cair.com. This is a domestic, America-friendly site – I commend it to you.
May Christ’s steady light shine on us, unobstructed.
The Rt. Rev. Thomas E. Breidenthal is the Bishop of the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.