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Faith of the Commons

September 11, 2012
Daniel E. H. Bryant


For years I have used a quote from Catholic theologian Hans Küng to describe the importance of what we do in this service.  He wrote to the conclusion of his text on world religions, “There will be no peace among the peoples of this world without peace among the world religions.”  We are living that peace right here.

Tonight though I want to use a different quote from another Catholic writer which I picked up from the work of Sr. Joan Chittester, a well-known Benedictine nun.  It is not that we Protestants don’t have any critical thinkers or inspirational authors of our own, it’s just that we are good at plagiarizing the good ideas of others!  After all, the Great Commandment given by Jesus, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself,” was not anything he originated.  It is a direct quote from two verses in the Torah.  And the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is found in some form in every religious tradition.  To paraphrase John Donne, no religion is an island.  We are all influenced by each other and we all have more to learn from each other.

So my quote for this evening, continuing in that vein, comes from Catholic author Michael Casey from his book Fully Human, Fully Alive, in which he writes about the meaning of the incarnation of the divine in Jesus.  Casey states,

The humanity of Jesus is a mirror in which we can see our own humanness more clearly. We are saved by the initiative of Jesus who incorporates within himself the totality of our race. We are lost to the extent that we exclude ourselves from this all-inclusive embrace.

All of that is just preamble to the heart of the matter which comes in the next sentence:

We cannot hope to receive salvation if our relationship with God is confined to a private chapel from which others are excluded.  (Let me repeat that…)

In other words, the moment we say our way is the only way, our truth is the one truth above all others, my way of belief is the one right way for everyone else, we in fact have not found the right way but the wrong way, we have not the truth for all but deception for ourselves.

Casey goes on to explain why this is so, writing,

Community corrects individual defects; what one lacks another supplies, what one breaks another repairs, when we fall there is someone to lift us up (Eccl. 4:10). One body has many irreconcilable inconsistencies; …

I love that, it’s not irreconcilable differences we have, just inconsistencies!

Casey continues, many bodies together neutralize their potential to do harm. In a choir of thousands, who notices if I sing a wrong note? Perseverance in the spiritual life demands a community of common faith—with one heart and one mind.

I am not sure what he means by “a community of common faith” so I would put it this way from what I think we have learned from our experience of an interfaith community.  What we have here is not a common faith by any means, but faith of the commons.  Think of the commons as that tradition from earlier times of a place where one gathers for the community business—where people engage in trade and dialogue, where decisions are made about community life and well being.  What is demanded in these times is faith of the commons—that we can share together in our irreconcilable inconsistencies and no one need to engage in their faith practices in secret out of fear from intolerance, prejudice or hatred.  Thus events like this one and the Interfaith Community Breakfast a week from Friday on the International Day of Peace—tickets will be available in the hallway after the service—these are critical expressions of the commons where we can share together in our various faith traditions, in respect for each other, honoring that bit of the truth we each possess.  This is what makes for true community and true world peace.

Finally, Casey concludes,

The closer and more complete the bonding, the more effective such a community will be in bringing us to that simplicity of heart in which God becomes progressively more apparent.

May it so be here and everywhere.


Daniel E. H. Bryant

Interfaith Prayer Service

September 11, 2012


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