Clean Slate (Twentieth Ordinary)

Jesus continued, “I’ve come to start a fire on earth – how I wish it were blazing right now! I’ve come to change everything, turn everything right-side up – how I long for it to be finished! Do you think I came to smooth things over and make everything nice? Not so. I’ve come to disrupt and confront!” (Luke 12: 49 – 50)

Chicago fourth-grader Charlie Mahay likes meeting kids who are different from him simply because “they’re interesting,” he says. When he visited the mosque of his friend Isa (whose name is Arabic for Jesus), the main difference Charlie noted from how he worships at his Catholic parish were that you have to take off your shoes and sit on the floor.

What did he and Isa have in common? They like to play basketball. And now they write poetry together, too – as part of an arts program called Poetry Pals that brings Christian, Muslim, and Jewish students, aged 8 to 12, to teach one another about their traditions through creative expression, go to each other’s places of worship, and become friends in the process. Since the program’s founding in 2008, 2,500 participants have learned that what we have in common is stronger than our differences, and our differences certainly don’t have to be our undoing.

People aren’t born with prejudices; they learn them – but adults can help make sure kids don’t. And it works the other way, too: Because acceptance and tolerance come naturally for kids, they’re models for adults. After all, Jesus said, “… unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven”.

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