I have been blessed to experience the breadth and depth of the Christian church, far beyond my white American middle/upper class upbringing. This past Sunday was a wonderful reminder of that blessing.
I worshiped at a self-described African-American/Hispanic Roman Catholic parish. On Sundays, they hold two large Masses - one in English, and one in Spanish.
At the first Mass, the youth choir led the music as the priest preached on the importance of standing up for what you believe in. Since it was the first Sunday of Black History Month, he spoke on the importance of solidarity with those who are under threat - particularly, he said, for Muslims in the United States. Since part of our Saturday was spent at an interfaith rally for Muslim and refugee solidarity, I found this message particularly meaningful. Without watering down the gospel, he also reminded the congregation that Muslims worship the same God as Christians, and revere both Jesus and Mary. And as we sang "Lift Every Voice and Sing", I had one of those visceral, physical moments of worship that stir my soul.
After some coffee and fellowship, I made my way back to the second Mass. It was filled to overflowing with Hispanic families. The cry of babies was constant and wonderful, and the music was Norteño in flavor. With the Spanish-speaking priest was away on vacation, the English-speaking priest celebrated. His sermon on the importance of Christian family nurture was translated into Spanish - otherwise, he led liturgy in English while the congregation responded in Spanish.
Outside, parishioners sold fresh tamales as a fundraiser. They were probably delicious anyway, but certainly hit the spot for a 2:15pm lunch. We sat on the front steps and ate as families made their way home.
And that's when it hit me. We are surrounded by such a politically- and racially-charged context these days. And yet, there I was, a straight white male American Protestant pastor in the midst of Catholic Africans, African-Americans, and Mexicans. Praise the Lord! This moment embodied how I see Church, how I see Jesus, even how I see America. I savored it, treasuring the fact that my life has been filled recently with such amazing boundary-crossing. And every time I do, I know that I touch that soul-stirring radical welcome of Jesus' own taboo-breaking, boundary-crossing life and witness.
I hope to bring a taste of that same hospitality to aijcast. And as I begin to map out the production schedule for conversations and performances, I continue to commit this podcast to Jesus' own possibilities and hopes.