(RNS) — The Rev. Vincent “Chip” Seadale was at a denominational meeting in North Carolina when he got a call that something was brewing on Martha’s Vineyard. The call was from a counselor who sometimes attends St.
Ms. Tippett: Where does the body come in to all of this? Where does the body come in to happiness? It can sound like we’re having a discussion about happiness. It’s very cerebral, very mental. You, for example, Bishop Schori, have spoken about running as body meditation. Let’s talk a little bit about our physical selves in this condition of happiness.
Lord Sacks: Well, obviously, Judaism has a certain approach to the physical dimension of the spiritual life. It’s called food. [laugh] In fact, somebody once said, you know, if you want a crash course in understanding all the Jewish festivals, they can all be summed up in three sentences: They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat. [laugh] But I think that is part of our faith that God is to be found down here in this world that God created and seven times pronounced good. And I find one of the most striking sentences in Judaism — it is in the Jerusalem Talmud — is the statement of Rav that in the world to come, a person will have to give an account of every legitimate pleasure he or she deprived themselves of in this life. Because God gave us this world to enjoy.
I must say that quite apart — and I mean, absolutely, Judaism has taken — I think we share this, but Judaism has said there are three approaches to physical pleasure. Number one is hedonism, the worship of pleasure. The number two is asceticism, the denial of pleasure. And number three is the biblical way for sanctification of pleasure. And that, I think, is important and very profound. And I must say that, you know, sometimes the best kind of interfaith gatherance — I mean, theology is extremely wonderful. It’s very cognitive. That is a very polite English way of saying boring. [laugh] And sometimes the best form of interfaith is you just sit together, you eat together, you drink together, you share one another’s songs. You listen to one another’s stories and just enjoy the pleasures of this world with people of another faith. That is beautiful.
I would add just one other thing. If there is one thing I find beautiful beyond measures — there in my own tradition in what we call hakhnasat orhim, hospitality, very real element of Christianity and Islam and Buddhism — it’s a super element in Sikhism, what’s called langar. You know, it’s not just my physical pleasures. It’s giving physical pleasure to those who have all too little. One very great Hasidic teacher once said, “Somebody else’s material needs are my spiritual duties.” And that, I think, is where we join in sharing our pleasures with others.
Spencer Burke at TheOOZE has a great series of interviews with folks around the world about how they are living our their Christian faith in the emerging post-modern world. This week he talks about immigration with Matt Soerens.
“Immigrants are more than what they can contribute to our affluence,” says Matt Soerens. Made in the image of God, they are people like you and I who demonstrate the beautiful diversity of God’s creation of humanity. ThinkFwd host, Spencer Burke, talks with Soerens in the Chicago suburb where he lives. His neighbors are a diverse population including immigrants from Mexico, Africa, and Southeast Asia.
Soerens has co-authored a book about the church and immigration called “Welcoming the Stranger.” He says his goal with the book was not to convince anyone of a particular immigration policy but rather to look at the issue Biblically and ask—as Christians—what do we do with this complicated topic of immigrants and immigration?
1. Take a moment to role play—what would you be feeling if you were in a foreign country, didn’t know the language, didn’t know the customs, you saw law-enforcement as an enemy and it was criminal to work, yet the conditions in your country were worse?
2. Moving beyond policy to personal, what has been your first-hand interaction with immigrants?
Small Group or Staff Questions:
1. Throughout history we’ve used language to de-humanize people we don’t want to deal with. How have terms like “alien” influenced you?
2. As a Christian, how do you feel about evaluating people solely on their economic impact to our organization, city, or country?