November 24, 2019

November 24, 2019

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Seek the Neutral Ground of Christ


By Father Brendan McGuire

Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, San Jose, and Vicar General for Special Projects, Diocese of San Jose.

In a small town called Macon in Georgia, there are two First Baptist churches that are separated by only 50 yards at most; a small park sits between them. They used to be one community; one black and one white. The slaves in one church and the slave owners in the other. They walked to church together and they went each to their own church. That was 180 years ago. Unfortunately, it still persists today; black in one and white in the other.

Several years ago, the two individual pastors were struck by a thought that it didn’t seem right and so they went out for lunch. They meet in a neutral place and they chatted. They came up with an idea that maybe they should start being one church again.

Bear in mind, several years ago the climate in America was not much better than today when it comes to black and white. There were arrests around all that town just as much as anywhere else. They knew what they were taking on. They started at the best place; they started with the children.

Every year both churches had an Easter egg hunt each at a different time in the same park that separated them. This year, they said, “Let’s have one Easter egg hunt together.” So, they did. The kids had a blast and the parents were surprised. Soon they had a function here and a function there and a luncheon here and then one day, just a couple of months ago, they went into each other’s church. Each congregation was shocked because the design inside was identical. It was the exact same church that had been built twice. They had never been inside each other’s church in 180 years; the same First Baptist community.

When they shared their first liturgy, each was in tears because it had been long coming and long wanted for they had no divide; they had no ill will in their hearts against each other. They wanted unity. A couple of years ago, they vowed together to be one church with common services. Unity in Christ. That is Church!

It takes a brave soul to walk into the neutral ground to meet the other in neutral ground. That is the bravery that only comes with conviction in Christ; that is when we have truth on our side and we believe that Christ wants us to be one.

We celebrate the feast day of Christ the King, King of the Universe, not just of our world. Now more than ever, we need someone to unify us. Unify us in civility. Unify us in truth and life. Unify us in holiness and grace. Unify us in justice, love and peace. Unify us in boldness to seek peace and reconciliation.

As long as we continue to focus on our own singular needs, we will never, ever be united in Christ because Christ always sought the broken, the needy, the homeless, the elderly and the orphaned. He is the one who gave voice to the voiceless.

If we want to be one in Christ, we must be bold enough to walk into the neutral ground and stake a claim for Christ our King and say “Here is where I put my stake–in the neutral ground that is only held by Christ.”