Out of Many, One People: Living together in Harmony

Bible Verses
Ruth 1:16
But Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you
    or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
    where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
    and your God my God.

Luke 10: 29-37

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii,gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend. ’Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? ”He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Take a Moment to Ponder

The Christchurch, New Zealand terrorist attacks with shootings at two consecutive mosques the Al Noor Mosque in the suburb of Riccarton and the Linwood Islamic Centre during Friday Prayer on March 15, 2019 gripped the collective attention of the world. Not only for the sheer impassive and calculated violence but also for the fact it was streamed live via a camera attached to shooter’s body as it unfolded. Attacks on persons of different religious, ethnic or political suasions have been around since biblical times but have seen a modern resurgence in numerous countries around the world. Today, people migrate from their homeland to seek better economic possibilities or education or flee from ongoing wars and violence to countries that are very dissimilar to their own society. The dangerous migrations by boat across the Mediterranean Sea of people from the Middle East and Africa through popular launch sites in North Africa have riveted the attention of the world in recent years as scores of lives are lost in treacherous waters or at the hands of unscrupulous ‘facilitators’. Men, women and children from Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria, Gambia, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Guinea, Mali or Ghana daily flee oppression, extreme poverty, political instability and armed conflict.

While not at the extremes suffered by those people, Jamaicans have also fled our country for reasons of poverty, better economic opportunity or to escape political and/or gang violence. Jamaicans will go almost anywhere in the world that holds possibilities joining the diaspora of people living away from their established or ancestral homelands.

Firstly, these faith and hope-filled persons have to gain entry into these new places and then they face the challenges of assimilation into new and very culturally different societies. Often with much push back as the world of 2019 is one of shrinking fortunes. Seemingly powerful countries have recessions, failing currencies and less to put towards social services. These new mouths to feed and hands to employ strain burdened countries. Jamaica is a part of this phenomenon with recent pushbacks against the growing wave of Chinese workers and merchants. Peoples arriving from China, India, Lebanon and Syria score our ethnic history. Today we see Germans, Japanese and others coming to settle attracted by our climate, coffee or reggae music. We are after all the ‘Out of Many, One People’ country.

This brings us to the central point of today’s message. To what extent in these migrations do the migrants live the words of Ruth, “your people shall be my people and your God my God”? Conversely, what tolerance is there for the migrants’ faith systems and their practice? Perhaps the answer can be seen in the response in New Zealand to the sheer magnitude of the affront suffered by the Muslim worshippers at Friday Prayer. The Prime Minister stated immediately after the attack, ”Many of those affected may be migrants, may be refugees. … They are us. … The perpetrator is not. and at the funeral “New Zealand mourns with you. We are one. Finally, the performances of the traditional Māori Haka dance used to honour the dead around the country by citizens including the most publicised, the Haka performed by a Biker Gang spoke to a country sending a clear message to the Muslim community, ‘We are your neighbour, we stand with you, and we will help you heal’. In this global area with rapid mass transport, international trade and the all-reaching internet the answer to question of “Who is my neighbour?” becomes “Everyone, Everywhere!”

Take Action

Ngati Mphepo yofika konse tell us “God is as the wind, which touches everything.” Let us the people of God take on the challenge of our living faith as Intentional Disciples by demonstrating the ‘necessary relationship between faith and works’ spoken about by John Piper where he says, “Our deeds will be the public evidence brought forth in Christ’s courtroom to demonstrate that our faith is real”.

It is easy to reach out to our neighbour across the fence or on our road. The poor, the unemployed, the sick, the mentally or emotionally fragile, the weak and the dispossessed are also our neighbours. The real stretch of our spiritual muscles will be to reach out to those other neighbours that need our love and action. Feel those unused or little used spiritual muscles burn!

A Moment in Prayer

We affirm that God is ever-present to lead us on the right path. Let us be there for one another and work together to affirm the dignity entitled to every person as a child of God.

In this season of reflection and repentance, we pray to the God that is with us at all times and places to help us to let go of any bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of discrimination and evil behaviour. Build up in us hearts and minds that are kind to all people, tender-hearted and forgiving, just as God through Christ has forgiven us. Amen.

Contributed by: Sister Thera Edwards

Video – Bike Gang Haka

Song – Make me a Channel of your Peace