A Dialogue Between Tevuta Puloka and Douglas Norris
2 KINGS 5:1-14, MARK 7:24-304:5
Doug: Two weeks ago I heard the Mayor of East Palo Alto speak. She is upset about Menlo Park’s attempt to build physical traffic barriers, which sound like the Berlin Wall, between Menlo Park and East Palo Alto. Highway 101 is a physical and psychological barrier between Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. She also told us that EPA is no longer predominantly black. Hispanics are the largest single group, with Pacific Islanders, particularly Tongans, growing rapidly. Our congregation now has a sizable number of Tongans who live in EPA. A congregation of Fijian Methodists who live in EPA now worship in our chapel every Sunday at 12:30. Our congregation now has a unique opportunity to break down the barrier of 101! Across 101 is our theme this morning. The Bible is filled with stories where God breaks down barriers between people. In the Old Testament lesson this morning, we heard the story of Naaman, a commander of the Syrian army, who was cured of his leprosy by Elisha. The barrier of class distinction, and the barrier of protocol were overcome. Naaman was incensed that Elisha would not even come out to greet him, but sent a servant to tell him to immerse himself in the Jordan River seven times. The barrier of national prejudice was overcome. God is not confined by nationalism. There was no love lost in that day between Syria and Israel, a prejudice which continues to this day. When Jesus reminded the synagogue worshipers in Nazareth of Elisha’ curing a Syrian of leprosy, they became very angry and ran Jesus out of town.
Tevita: Tell story of Jesus curing daughter of Syrophoenician woman whose faith impressed Jesus: "Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs." Our God is a barrier breaking God.
Doug: How do you see God breaking down barriers across 101 through our congregational experience?
Tevita: Easter People Class where cultural barriers between Tongan and non-Tongans were crossed by the class participants. Announce the Thanksgiving Class.
Doug: We are each pieces of the whole, like a jig-saw puzzle. "Without you, I am not complete." Not only can we learn from one another, we need one another. Without the other, our experience of God is limited and narrow. What can we North Americans learn about God from Pacific Islanders?
Tevita: The plurality, versus singular, nature of God. Tongans experience God in community.
Doug: The North American experience of God is individualistic. We emphasize the developing of a personal, individual relationship with God. We pride ourselves on our rugged individualism. We can learn much from Tongans. Our individualistic experience of God without a sense of community, a sense of belonging to the family of God, has led to isolation, loneliness, and separation. In particular we are separated from our environment. Native Americans lived in harmony with nature. We immigrants who now dominate in the United States have dominated nature, and are destroying it in the process. The fragile planet is being destroyed by our inadequate understanding of God. What about Tongans?
Tevita: Sacredness of nature. Sacred places. Sacred space. We respect the power of nature, the forces of nature. Living in harmony with nature teaches you how to live with your neighbors. You can’t move away from neighbors; you learn how to live with them.
Doug: As we work together toward bridging 101, learning from each other about God, we unite in friendship. It is fitting today to celebrate Communion together. The English word companion is from the Latin com-panis. Friends come together and share bread.
ã 1992 Douglas I. Norris