Powerful music and a new perspective on the Good Samaritan highlighted the opening worship service at Big Tent 2019 in Baltimore on Thursday evening. The nearly 800 worshippers sang hymns, heard God’s word through the music of the Community Concert Choir of Baltimore, and were asked a basic question: “Would you be a neighbor?”
Baltimore is hosting Big Tent through the end of the week and service participants wasted little time challenging attendees to look closely at what God wants them to do. The Co-Moderators of the 223rd General Assembly, the Rev. Cindy Kohlmann and Ruling Elder Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri, welcomed participants.
“Have you been pushed a bit? I hope you were paying attention and felt moved to get into the streets of the neighborhood where God has led you,” said Kohlmann. “You will, during these days, feel pushed and challenged and stretched and spiritually uncomfortable because that is where God is.”
The Reverend Dr. Amaury Tañón-Santos, networker for the Synod of the Northeast, preached from Luke 10:25-37, the parable of the Good Samaritan. He focused on how Jesus responded to questions from a lawyer who sought to test him, specifically with, “Who is my neighbor?”
“What we know is this teacher of the law intended to test Jesus. But Jesus shifted the engagement from dialogue about theological discussion to discussion about daily life,” he said. “For the next few days, we will gather around the call to a movement beyond institution. What is the question that we as a church are seeking answers to?”
Tañón-Santos said attendees must be prepared to hear those answers.
“God has gathered us to engage in conversation to answer those questions, so bring your questions to Jesus,” he said. “But be ready to engage him in conversation. There are no quick answers here and the response might not be what you expect.”
As the Good Samaritan cared for a man who had been left for dead, Tañón-Santos says people must learn to be good neighbors.
“The man who challenged Jesus learned that Jesus is all about community, relationship, vulnerability, redemption,” he said. “I ask you, what is the question that you are bringing to this gathering? Do you have questions out of a feeling of frustration or love? Do you have questions growing out of a sense of anger, causing you pain? The good news is Jesus is here. Jesus might not have the answer you want, but Jesus is here.”