John O’Donohue, Celtic poet, opened his book Anam Cara with these lines:
“It’s strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you.”
Yes, Life is strange and mysterious, birthing unique beings and constantly revealing the unexpected. Every cell on the planet is unique. Every single person is strange, different from us. Differences can scare us when we encounter a stranger. So it is no wonder that religions often seek to create comfort and security with pat formulas and fixed rules of behavior and systems of exclusion and inclusion. The weird part is how religion can exclude strangers, different people, since every being is different.
In xenophobia people fear and hate the stranger, anyone who is not exactly like them. When xenophobia rules, they seek to exclude those strangers with walls, and deportations, and such. Xenophobia is the Exclusion Religion. In the face of such fears all around us, aren’t we glad when followers of the Way of Christ get things right, and we give allegiance to the Love Religion, not the Exclusion Religion.
In the photo above, my grandson and my nephew do not even know anything about differences. They do know they both love video games! And they know they love each other. There was that time when my grandson fist noticed that my nephew’s prosthetic leg came off, and so he knew something was different. So he asked if my nephew was a robot. When I said, “No, he just has a different leg,” he said, “Oh.” And they kept running in circles and giggling. Philoxenia is love of the stranger. It chooses love of the next person, who is always different in some way, not exclusion.
Jesus was our Master in this Love Religion. Sure the Dalai Lama said his “religion is kindness.” But long before he existed, another spiritual Master said ours is a Love Religion, and love of God/neighbor/self is the heart of the religion. And every other command falls underneath the Love command. The Love Religion is thus the opposite of xenophobia.
Romans 8:14-17 is a passage affirming the inclusivity of the Love Religion. The author says, “ALL who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters…The same Spirit agrees with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Don’t ever forget our message in the contemplative spiritual community. For us, All means ALL!
In Acts 2: 17 the prophet Joel quotes God as saying, “I will pour out my Spirit on ALL people: young, old, men and women, and slaves.” That same Spirit doesn’t play our religious Exclusion Game. Spirit keeps busting boundaries we create, and delivering the truth of ALL.
In verse 4 of this same story from Acts we find that people from every nation under heaven were gathered in Jerusalem and “they were ALL filled with the Holy Spirit” as “a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house” and there were “individual flames of fire alighting on Each One of them.”
In the action of Fierce Wind/Spirit Fire every wall of exclusion is broken down and the full inclusivity of God’s ALL reigns. This is what happens when the kingdom of God is manifested. The wild, uncontrollable Spirit does whatever She/He wants to, blows wherever He/She chooses, and our work, our priorities, our plans, even our lives and relationships are turned upside down.
I happen to have personal experience of this whole business of saying, “Wait a minute there Sprit, this is not what we had planned!” So does Rev. Jan Richardson, who wrote these words in her poem “Final Instructions”:
The palaces you build
are always temporary;
soon the blaze will
burn the spectacle down.
Remember the gifts this fire
once brought, illuminating
landscape on a cold night,
revealing the shape of things.
Follow your longing
to hang upside down in trees,
letting dreams tumble out….
Now this is what I say:
There is a fierce wind sweeping through this world,
a Spirit fire burning down every wall we build up,
leaving much we loved in ashes,
raising a new love to life in that place.
Trust the fierce wind/Spirit fire mortals
more than you trust what you have made
with your own hands;
for that power has birthed stars and galaxies,
both great and small, near and far,
and it wants to bring new birth in you!
More than that,
what will be born
is part of the great Love Religion arising,
replacing congregations who exclude and enslave
with new collectives:
people who know their inner sanctuaries,
who meet in the divine Center
across the invisible web of divinity
connecting us all.
Surrender all forms of xenophobia this day and practice philoxenia, as a follower of the Way of Christ. And follow the Torah, which repeatedly says, “You shall love the stranger, for you were once strangers….” Give your full allegiance to the Love Religion, even if it costs you everything!