(Posted on September 17, 2015)
This Sunday marks the first “Real Theology Sunday” of our Church’s new Fall season. For some time now, I’ve been offering a Sunday service where we discuss pressing topics that people have an abiding interest in, or a challenge that concerns them but does not normally find its way into holy conversation.
This Sunday we will share our Sanctuary and pulpit with Chaplain Shazeeda Khan and representatives from the Masjid of Danbury. During the 10 a.m service, we will be learning about the foundational beliefs of Islam, and the surprising and often forgotten ways that together we are still the Children of Abraham: brothers and sisters whose belief systems share common values. After Coffee Hour, we will be invited over to the Masjid where Chaplain Shazeeda will teach both her adult and young guests about the tradition of Islamic worship and beliefs. We hope to be able to view members of our Islamic community at prayer. There will be ample time for answering questions we all might have.
There are many fascinating things that the average Christian may not know about Islam. Did you know that Jesus was respected and quoted in many Islamic stories as a prophet? Just as Jesus and Mary are key parts of the Gospel, both of them are featured prominently in Islamic literature. The Quran picks up directly the story where Jesus tells us that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. More expansive are the stories of Jesus quoted in Hadith – a group of maxims, legal outlooks and narratives collected by religious scholars about great prophets and thinkers. Here in the Tales of Prophets Jesus is enshrined with other prophets like Moses, John the Baptist, David, Solomon and Job. The point of departure for our two belief systems is that, while Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God and one of the three persons in the Trinity that comprise a single God, Muslims reject the Trinity as worship of three gods – a violation of their strict monotheism.
Why do we hold Real Theology Sundays? Because I am of the firm belief that it’s the things we do not talk about or learn about but ponder as unknowns that are the breeding ground for apprehension, and apprehension leads to fear and prejudice. The antidote to these areas of unknowing is light and dialogue around differences and similarities. This is a world where people who know little of either religion tend to think of them in terms of the actions of our mutual fringe groups who claim that their destructive actions are done “in the name of God” – such as the Westboro Baptist Church or ISIS. We hope that Sunday’s service opens our minds and hearts to the real Light of God that shows us how we – the real worshippers in our respective faiths -- have both descended from Abraham’s sons, who each on their own path strive to be obedient and in service to God’s greater good. I am in debt to Ch. Shazeeda and the leaders of the Masjid for this opportunity. See you Sunday! – Pastor Pat Kriss