But allow me to step back to explain a little more. One Sunday morning in the summer of 2004 I came to my church in Binghamton and I could hardly believe my eyes! In a pew close to the front, there was a real Sikh, complete with sky-blue turban and genuine untrimmed white beard. It turned out that he came with his Presbyterian wife (a blond Scandinavian from Iowa). We were their second stop that day. Originally, they went to a larger, main, Presbyterian church of the town but received such suspicious and disapproving looks, that they quietly left well before their worship began, and managed to find their way to our doors.
They came, they were welcomed, and they stayed all summer, as Dr. Singh was a summer locum tenens (temporary substitute) in the local hospital. They returned for several more summers. We had a marvelous time together. One Sunday morning during the children’s time we all learned how to make a true turban (or at least we had the opportunity to learn). We welcomed the Singhs in our church and they introduced us to a local Sikh community. From that moment on, one local Sikh boy attended some of our Sunday School programs and games. The Singhs worshiped with us, and they also invited us to Sikh worship.
Every Sikh worship is closed with a real feast called Langar. Kitchens and dining rooms are integral parts of every Gurdwara (Sikh sanctuary), and they are as large if not larger than worship spaces themselves. Meals are cooked in the sanctuary by volunteers and given free to everyone. They have a marvelous egalitarian spirit; men and women, rich and poor, old and young, different races and even different religions and traditions sit and eat together. Dishes are intentionally vegetarian so that no one is excluded regardless of their dietary restrictions. Almost always the meal is crowned with a royal handcrafted desert called Ladoo or Laddu, a ball of butter, sugar, crushed almonds (or other nuts), and whole wheat flour. If you want to experience how the Holy Communion in early churches must have felt, go to Gurdwara! (Unfortunately, these days in our society, this resemblance will include also murderous prejudice against the community!)
This Sunday we will read how Jesus made meals into an integral part of his ministry and into an instrument of social and societal transformation and healing. This Sunday we will also celebrate Holy Communion, without sweet butter, yet in Jesus' spirit of radical, egalitarian inclusivity.
|The Singhs with Martina and Jakob in 2007 at Green Lakes Park near Syracuse, NY|