Martin Buber, an early twentieth-century Jewish theologian, dedicated his life to understanding relationships. He saw two distinct types—experiences (I-It) and encounters (I-Thou). In I-It relationships we treat people as objects. In I-Thou relationships we see the other as a beloved child of God.
I-It relationships can make us feel demoralized, disem-
powered, misunderstood, and unworthy. I-Thou relationships offer honor, respect, empowerment, and hope.
Jesus reminds us that learning how to love is our life’s work. Through his life and ministry, Jesus shaped people in I-Thou relationships while living in the middle of an empire of I-It relationships. The commandment to love God and neighbor may seem like dropping a pebble in a ocean, but the cumulative effect of the ripples is never-ending.
My teacher friend, Bill, was in a hardware store when he locked eyes with one of the store employees. The young man did a double take and then approached Bill saying, “Do you remember me?” Bill said, “I think I was your third-grade teacher.” The young man nodded and then told Bill the story of how important Bill had made this immigrant boy feel by asking him to lead the class one day. As Bill welled up sharing this story with me he said, “You just never know the impact that we have on each other. I don’t even remember that day, but this boy still carries it in his heart.”
A smile, a hug, deep listening, caring for the earth, being kind and respectful of others—all these simple acts create a ripple of unfolding love in our families and communities to the ends of the earth. To love others remains a radical witness of Christ in the world, for God dwells not only in Christ but also in each and every single human being. No exceptions.
Today look for the Christ in everyone you meet.
Ruth and Psalm 146 share a thematic connection. Ruth is a foreigner who decides to follow the God of the Israelites, and the psalmist praises God for being the trustworthy God who cares about the poor, the oppressed, and the foreigner. In Ruth, Boaz will demonstrate this kind of care for her. The New Testament readings focus on sacrifice. Hebrews teaches us that Christ was both the greatest high priest and the eternal sacrifice. A scribe in Mark receives praise from Jesus, for he understands that the sacrificial system was less weighty than the act of loving one’s neighbor. Ruth and this scribe are examples of those, named and anonymous, who have come before us in the faith. We celebrate them on All Saints Day.
• Read Ruth 1:1-18. When have you left the familiar behind to set out into the unknown? Where did you experience God’s presence and help?
• Read Psalm 146. When you have found yourself in despair about the world, where have you witnessed God’s work that brings you hope?
• Read Hebrews 9:11-14. How willing are you to release your bag of sins and shortcomings to Jesus?
• Read Mark 12:28-34. In what ways do you understand yourself as a spiritual being having a human experience? What does that mean to you?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
View a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism.