Our response to the presence (or presents!) of God

December 24, 2009

From Monastic Inter-religious Dialogue: ‘

Our [Christian] faith as religion remains as a recognizable part of human history and within its unfolding we can trace the zigs and zags of our response to the presence of God and particularly what has been revealed in the person of Jesus the Messiah. Even with their cosmic grounding no longer possible, these foundation stories still remain central to understanding the relationship of Christ’s followers to the world of which they are a part So let me now suggest a contemporary remodeling of [Epiphany, one of the great festivals we celebrate during the Christmas season]. It may be that no longer are the Magi led by a star but rather they come to us to enquire as to the meaning of Jesus’ coming. They offer their own contributions of gold, frankincense and myrrh–the symbolic gift of kings to kings, but now indeed they are revealed as the treasures of Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim. The problem for us is what to do with these offerings? 

The religious life of mankind from now on, if it is to be lived at all, will be lived in a context of religious pluralism…This is true for all of us; not only for “mankind” in general on an abstract level, but for you and me as individual persons. No longer are people of other persuasion peripheral or distant curiosities of travelers’ tales. The more alert we are and the more involved in life, the more we are finding that they are our neighbors, our colleagues, our competitors, our fellows. Confucians, and Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims, are not only in the United Nations, but down the street. Increasingly, not only is our civilization’s destiny affected by their actions; but we drink coffee with them personally as well. (Wilfred Cantwell Smith, The Faith of Other Men(New York: Harper & Row, 1962), p. 11.)’

From a sermon preached by the Rev. Roger A. Balk, PhD, at Christ Church Cathedral, Montreal, on January 6, 2008. The entire sermon is available here.

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