After a Facebook post I wrote about a clergy person who objected to the Saturday Community Breakfast, held at First United Methodist Church of Panama City, at which The Bay County Islamic Society cooked breakfast and an inter-cultural prayer was offered by someone from their group, I received quite a few comments personally by people who agreed with my view that our call to hospitality to those who believe differently, or don’t believe at all, is a priority for the Community Breakfast. It is, after all, about “community”….defined as being an invitation to come and enjoy fellowship and connect with those offering resources to meet needs. “Community” is extended to ANYONE….no disclaimers. It is hosted in a Christian setting. It is managed and organized by Christian volunteers, but it is not open to only Christians. The presence and participation of non-believers threatens no believer, and certainly it doesn’t threaten the ministry of Christ.
I am hearing now, too, that there were others who viewed the presence and participation of Muslims as ” dissing Jesus.” No, I can assure you that Jesus was most assuredly present….and, I expect, rather than frowning or feeling disrespected, Jesus was likely smiling at the reality that we were all being stretched a little in our capacity to accept one another’s presence and work on something as fundamental as feeding individuals who are homeless, indigent, challenged by mental illness, food impoverished, etc.
When the name of Jesus is sung, as it was that day, when Christians are serving in the name of Jesus, when we are serving in a house where Jesus’ name is exalted and he is worshipped every day of the week…..I think our Muslim neighbors know well what we believe, including welcoming anyone who desires to come. Those who come might just get to know more about Jesus Christ and these people who call themselves by his name. What greater message of the love of Jesus Christ could we make to those who do not yet know him as Incarnate God than to invite them to be in community with us in such a basic call to human compassion? A sense of belonging in community together gives us the basis for having other conversations later….one-on-one or in other intercultural venues with other purposes than the hospitality of the Community Breakfast.
I also believe our Muslim neighbors are courageous in saying….”We are community, too. And we are willing to serve in community side by side with Christians.” It just might change some ideas about Christians for them, as it might make some Christians more open to friendships with people who are different culturally and religiously. Who knows, we might come to know, understand, and care for one another and pray more effectively that God’s will for all his children would begin to be lived out right in our midst.
(This was originally a Facebook post from spring 2017(