The Rev. Peter A. Lane
“The Arabs used to say, ‘When a stranger appears at your door, feed him for three days before asking who he is, where he’s come from, where he’s headed. That way, he’ll have strength enough to answer. Or, by then you’ll be such good friends you don’t care.’” Naomi Shihab Nye
I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately. In last week’s sermon we explored the power of relationship in our lives and the reality that no relationship, especially a friendship, can be built without listening to each other’s stories. That’s the jewel at the heart of the poem above, that perfect strangers, even foreigners, can become beloved friends with a little time and curiosity – a few good meals together helps a lot, too! Our Holy Scriptures are full of stories of such hospitality producing blessings and lasting friendships.
Friendships are a bedrock of our shared life at St. Alfred’s. Over and over again I hear folks talking about the friendships they’ve formed through time spent with people who once were strangers but now are important in their lives. That’s part of the beauty of a community of faith – all the opportunities we have to be with others, sharing our stories, listening to each other’s hopes and dreams, and working together to build a brighter world for ourselves and the generations to come.
Just as making new friends requires an investment of time and a willingness to expand our circle, maintaining friendships also requires our attention. I imagine we all have a friend or two who, even when we’ve not talked for months or even years, can pick up right where we left off with our enjoyment of each other’s company – but that is the exception. Most often a friendship that is not maintained soon becomes just a memory.
This Sunday, because of the construction of our new organ, we will be worshipping in the sanctuary of Temple Ahavat Shalom. What a wonderful act of hospitality and friendship by our brothers and sisters next door. When I asked Rabbi Berger whether it would be possible, he didn’t hesitate for a moment. There was a deep sense of joy and blessing in his response: “Please, come into our home and make it your home for as long as is needed.”
We have a long-standing relationship with the good people of Temple Ahavat Shalom dating back to the early 80s when the Synagogue was built. Over the years the relationship has had periods of deep friendship and cooperation through shared work in the wider community, as well as shared worship and fellowship. At other times in our history, the relationship has been let go with little to no effort made to come together over shared concerns or opportunities for doing good and fostering understanding and peace.
I do believe that one of the many gifts that our new organ is offering to us is the chance to renew and grow a deep and life-affirming relationship with our brothers and sisters at Temple Ahavat Shalom. The Vestry has chosen to make a donation of one thousand dollars to the Anti-Defamation League as our thanks for Rabbi Berger and the congregation’s generous hospitality during our time of need. Also, one of our talented members is creating a beautiful stained glass piece of the “Tree of Life” to present to the Temple in thanksgiving for their friendship and hospitality. Both are lovely and meaningful ways of saying thank you, and I’m grateful to both Sue Broward and the Vestry for these actions. But I think this is also a God-given opportunity for us to invest deeply in our long-standing relationship with our Jewish friends next door. I’m not sure what that investment will look like, but there is too much that binds us together through our faith and our shared stories, and too much need in the world for strong examples of people of different faiths coming together in understanding and friendship to work for justice and peace, for us not to pay attention to this moment and invest whatever it takes to forge a strong and lasting relationship with Temple Ahavat Shalom.