I have recently returned from a wonderful family trip to Central Europe. We all learned a lot while we were there. Some of the places were hard to visit, like Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Southern Poland. I felt a deep anger about the ‘othering’ of people that was enacted there. It was a hot windy dusty miserable day when we visited. The dust was swirling about by the wall where thousands had been shot to death. It was stiflingly hot in the gas chamber and crematorium. I was overwhelmed that so many lives were taken there, because they were deemed to be a threat, and different from the ‘right’ people.
At Auschwitz there are many displays, little museums, dedicated to remembering those whose lives were taken. I was particularly disturbed by one about Jewish people taken from the Netherlands, where I read accounts of what some Christian pastors had written and said, providing a narrative of support for Jews to be taken away and ‘dealt with.’ At the House of Terror in Budapest, people deemed a threat to Hungarian Fascism, to the Nazi Regime, and later to the Soviets, were interrogated, tortured and often enough killed. I spent a little time in one of those dark rooms where pastors and priests had been tortured for providing shelter to Jews and others deemed not worthy. It got me thinking about what do I stand for, and how willing would I be to bear a heavy price for taking a stand.
I believe that as Christians we are to stand against the ‘othering’ of people, following the example of Jesus. I know that we are all in some ways complicit in this ‘othering’. Sometimes we may have been effected by an experience we had with someone or some people from a particular group. We may have grown up with or been taught negative things about various groups of people. Sometimes the Bible is used to justify ‘othering.’ Thankfully as Christians we have resources; confession and forgiveness, Bible study, discussion and reflection; holding one another accountable for what we say and do; and standing together to actively connect with and welcome people different than ourselves, and speaking against the ‘othering’ that we encounter.
I have sometimes said that Northland in Columbus is like Galilee of the Gentiles in the Bible times. It really is very mixed. And with Ascension, what a great church and church area and neighborhood in which to practice our Christian faith of hospitality and welcome. It is a journey of some stretch. I am very thankful for the initiative of having some bilingual worship this summer. I am thankful for food being distributed to refugee/immigrant communities, and for our Ascension Garden. I am continuing to offer the opportunity for any of you to have Somali tea with me at the Global Mall down Morse Road from the church. What a great mission adventure Jesus invites us into. With love, Pastor Tim.