Inter-religious dialogue

I appreciate the give and take that is characteristic of this blog. I was conversing with a Palestinian Muslim not long ago. After talking about how we appreciated one another’s respective traditions, we agreed that, well, we had sharp disagreements! We were mutually annoyed with two trends that shape Christian-Muslim dialogue: first when, disagreements lead to violence, and second, when Christians in the West pretend that we are both the same. But we are not.

Mohammed said, “If Allah had a son, I would be the first to worship him.” Islam does not believe in the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, or that Jesus suffered death on the cross. We must always talk (and act) in a peaceable and irenic fashion, but it does us no good to assume that we are the same.

Future Challenges?

In a recent article in Relevant magazine, some contemporary Christian thinkers were asked 7 important questions, one of which was, “What do you see as the greatest challenge for young Christians in the next 10 years?”

Orthodox author, Frederica Matthewes-Green (she’s a pacifist, by the way) said,
“I am afraid that every Christian is going to be increasingly challenged by violent Islam in ways that will be harder and harder to tacitly ignore. Ironically, much of what Islam hates about America are things that Christians ought to likewise resist: gluttonous consumption, recreational shopping, celebrity culture, trashing of the environment, the trivializing of sex, the sexualizing of children, the killing of unborn children, artificializing women’s bodies, depriving boys and men of a coherent and worthy identity…any belief that being ‘American’ takes precedence over membership in the body of Christ. If we are going to face the threat of death for what we believe (as Christians [faced with Islam] have been doing for 1,300 years in Africa, Asia and the Middle East), let it truly be for what we believe, and not for Angelina Jolie, the ‘4th Meal’ and extra cupholders.”


The Light That Shines in the Darkness

We had an amazing celebration of Epiphany last Sunday (on the Baptism of our Lord) the 7th, with a pig roast no less! Our parish (Church of the Epiphany) is now 111 years old. It’s amazing to see how a church goes from extinction to growth in so many different kinds of ways.

This particular parish began in 1896 but was the most vital in the 1950s under a rector who was very ‘charismatic’ and was able to make many of the older ladies swoon. He vacilated between the priesthood and Hollywood and preached many a dramatic sermon. The church had no windows for most of its history (the current building plant is 66 years old) and this founding rector would preach with all of the lights down, except the one on him. He also had a ‘healing ministry’ of the science of the mind/Mary Baker Eddy variety and was a mason. There are rumors of strange rites existing in the church–both of the Anglican and not so Christian variety.

Another interesting (strange?) piece of history is that every rector who followed the first found themselves either dead, disabled or caught in immorality.

The word ‘epiphany’ means ‘manifestation’ or ‘revealing.’ The Magi had the first ‘epiphany’ when they saw the Lord revealed by the star. Jesus revealed his own Deity through his baptism (where the Father and the Spirit were also present) and in his many ‘signs,’ (as John puts it)–that is, his miracles.

John said in his gospel that the Light shone in the darkness–yet the darkness could not understand it. This parish called ‘Epiphany’ is in a place where it needs to overcome its past darkness, the darkness of this thing we call ‘the Episcopal Church’ and the current darkness of the secular culture that surrounds us.

It ain’t the 1950s and folks these days must choose to be disciples of Jesus and not to wear the denominational badge. But that is a good thing. We all know the Light Shining in the Darkness is Jesus Christ. The Darkness cannot overcome him.

The thing about the dark is that you only need a little bit of light to penetrate it. Light a match in a dark room and suddenly the dark is not what it was before. Imagine what the Light of the world can do with the darkness of our hearts, and with the darkness of one parish’s past. The Light burns and the world is changed.