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Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection

The Rev. Jeni Markham Clewell

Epworth United Methodist Church, Oklahoma City

May 6, 2004

 

Where did we learn the notion that religious freedom means the freedom to condemn anyone who is not like us?    Where did we learn the notion that people of faith must all think alike, look alike, worship alike?  Religious freedom must mean that we celebrate the goodness and sacred nature of life together, as family, as community, as fellow citizens, ALL OF US -- celebrating our differences, honoring our diversity, and teaching our children to love and respect each other.  Love one another, love your neighbor as yourself, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  We can change the world through love.

 

Brothers and sisters, in the name of religion we have said explicitly or implicitly to one another, “You are not welcome in my church.”  The fundamental problem with that attitude is in the words “my church.”  The truth is, all who draw breath belong to the family of God.   We all share in the universal spirit of life.  Listen to these words from a wise and saintly Mother Theresa:  If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.

 

I have crossed the lines of hate mongers at events where little children are holding up signs that say, “God hates fags.”  The fundamental problem with that understanding is in the words, “God hates.”   

 

Brothers and sisters, we have ignored our holy texts that say:  Beloved, love one another, love your neighbor as yourself.  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  It does not say HATE them, or HURT them, or EXCLUDE them.  It says, Love them! And pray for them.  On this day of prayer…  we can do that, can’t we?   We hold the power of the universe in our ability to love.

 

Can we agree to listen to each other and honor our differences, even celebrate them?  Can we commit together to end the infliction of suffering in the name of God?  Can we turn the hate we are taught into a respectful love? 

 

On this day of prayer… let us celebrate our differences, honor our diversity, and teach our children to love and respect each other.  Love one another, love your neighbor as yourself, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  Go on, I dare you to change the world through love.

 

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