Embracing our neighbours near and far
Heidi Rurade is one of the artists in our 2017 Lent series. She says: “The prayer I was given to illustrate for TEAR’s Lenten Series is 'Heavenly Father, Your Son’s outstretched arms on the cross reminds us of your reconciling embrace. May we embrace our near and distant neighbours with open arms so they too know your love'". Here is Heidi's beautiful reflective blog on this prayer.
My husband and I have recently moved to a new part of town – we now live right by the sea. One thing I love about the beach is the diversity of people I see splashing in the water, picnicking on the foreshore or walking their dogs. It doesn’t matter what your age, race, culture, religion, social or economic background – everyone has equal access to the beach. And it’s a place that has the potential to break down barriers as people cross paths with others they ordinarily wouldn’t.
To me, the cross is the ultimate place where all are invited without discrimination, where all are considered equal. It is here that God demonstrates his incredible love, a love which crosses all boundaries – geographical, racial, cultural, social, economic... even religious. The cross invites me to embrace my neighbours, near and far, and ponder our shared humanity: our brokenness and failure, as well as our capacity for good. The cross challenges me to approach all people with humility, forgiveness, kindness and compassion, just as Jesus did. And the cross asks me to participate in the breaking down of walls that divide. This is especially relevant given our current political climate of fear and exclusion.
Of course, it’s not easy to cross divides. Recently, I was in my weekly print making workshop, chatting to a woman who lives in a poorer part of town. She described some of the challenges her neighbours face – like crime and the resistance to welcome ethnic minorities. I began to imagine what it would be like to involve myself in the lives of others who have perhaps grown up with less education and privilege than what I have; those who view the world differently to what I do. I began to imagine how uncomfortable it might feel initially. But I was also reminded that Jesus never sought comfort.
A few years ago I had the privilege of being in Newcastle to participate in a protest, where we stood in solidarity with our Pacific Island neighbours who are facing the severe effects of climate change. I was deeply moved by the spirit of these people – their pride and dignity, laughter and joy, heartbreak and sadness. Throughout the day, prayers, stories, songs and dancing were shared amongst us, along with peaceful action out on the water. It was an incredibly inspiring day – to be with people from all different walks, sharing our sorrows, celebrating life, and fighting injustice together. Suddenly strangers felt like friends. Suddenly we were part of one community. It was one of the most profound experiences of my life.
The Bible says that God has reconciled us to Himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). In recent times I’ve began to think more deeply about the meaning of reconciliation. Reconciliation implies that a right relationship once existed, between God and us and between each other. On a deep spiritual level, I believe that we are more connected to each other than perhaps we are aware. And therefore, to think that we can ignore each other’s pain and do no damage to ourselves in the process, is an illusion. Perhaps this is at heart of Jesus' teaching when he says “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Perhaps Jesus is saying more than simply “I want you to play fair”. Perhaps he is actually saying that the wellbeing of others is caught up with ours, even those in the poorer parts of town or across the seas.
I believe that when we fail to seek reconciliation in our hearts and through our words and actions, with our broader family, we do ourselves harm. We reduce who we are as followers of Jesus whose purpose is to seek peace and restore justice to this world. We miss out on the great joy and blessing of standing as one family. So let us be people of the cross, recognising that our life cannot be separated from our neighbours.
Heidi Rurade is a SA-based designer and artist.
You can view TEAR's 2017 Lent series here: www.fortomorrow.org.au/site/lent