In June my family will mark five years of living in Dallas. I remember distinctly telling Amy that “we would never live in Dallas.” I’m not sure what was in my mind when I had said that, but to be sure I had a vision of the city that tainted my expectations. In perhaps classic God-fashion, the very place I said I would never live is my home, a place I love, and filled with people I’m called to serve. I’m thankful to God for calling us to Dallas, and specifically the place of East Dallas.
When we first arrived in Dallas we noticed some clear themes. One Saturday we went to the mall because it was too hot in the concrete jungle, and most of the people around us were dressed up. At the mall. That was interesting. We also noticed people kept their cars very, very clean. I could roll with that. But we also soon noticed that though Dallas is full of white people, it is also a beautifully multi-ethnic, multi-cultural city. This was important to us because our family is multi-ethnic. In this realization we saw that Dallas was truly a city for all peoples. Sure, there are pockets of the city that are like any other city where the gatekeepers and decision-makers preside over the metropolis in a more or less monochromatic way. But at the same time, we co-mingled with residents from Central America, the Middle East, Western Africa, the Indian sub-continent, and our precious Ethiopia.
This Sunday I’ll be preaching on Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the temple in 1 Kings 8, and it’s so wonderful to me to see Solomon’s emphasis by God’s inspiration that this temple, this house of God for the people of Israel, be a place where a “foreigner, who is not of your people Israel…comes and prays toward this house, hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you” (41-43).
We see an almost identical picture in the Book of Revelation as St. John describes the scene around God’s throne: “Behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).
So, God wants people to know him. And he wants people from every nation under heaven to know him, to pray to him, to love and fear him. Friends, we are all foreigners, strangers and aliens. And without the grace of God would be absolutely destitute and without hope in the world. Yet God, in his fatherly kindness, has reached out to us. And he does this so we might live in his presence, be filled with his goodness and glory, in order that we might live out his love, that we might welcome and invite and be present to those around us who aren’t familiar with God’s love and kindness and promises.
I pray that as God grows All Saints East Dallas, he makes js a place filled with people from every nation, a place where people gather around God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and worship at his feet in unity and glory. Let’s move toward that goal filled with the Holy Spirit, living in his presence and living out his love.