Saturday, August 23, 2014

Summer 2014 / Who can think about anything else, this summer, besides the cruel violence perpetrated by Islamists in our day?

Some of this Saturday morning's readings:

I don't know who "" is, but some of the articles there are definitely worth reading and pondering.  The quality is variable, but some are daring and honest, all from within a Muslim point of view.

 I came across the site just mentioned while researching the Kaaba and its meaning in Islam.  The reason I began researching the Kaaba is interesting, too.  A woman my age from the small community I used to live in, in the country, had posted a link to some apocalyptic interpretations.  I was surprised, as I did not think that the woman had interest in apocalyptic themes.  To be quite honest, even I started thinking about Jesus prophesying in the Gospel of Matthew about the fleeing to the mountains, when the Yazidi's began to find refuge on Mt. Sinjar.  What could be more dramatic?  It rang a bell with me.  Still much worse, however, is a world-wide persecution of Christians on a scale previously unknown.  All the while, Christians and Yazidi's have been trying to live peaceful lives, and it is Shia and Sunni's at each others throats all the time, not to mention innumerable other factions, as the "" article bears out.

Which brings us to the point:  what is it about Muslims always being at each other's throats and what has the Kaaba to do with Muslim worship?  Is it not a thing?  Why bow down toward a thing when idolatry is so strictly forbidden?  Why do Shia's curse Sunni's in their mosques and Sunni's the Shia?  Why is America cursed in the mosque?  Why call cursing prayer?  Why do it in a house of worship?  How can this be religion?

What, though, once more, is the Kaaba?  Why could it matter so much?  It is an ancient place with a stone, possibly a meteorite, embedded in the central structure.  From reading about it, it seems that the meaning it holds for Muslims is that this is where Ishmael and Hagar were saved from death by God himself.  Anyhow, it is somehow connected to Ishmael.  They say that Ishmael could not have been an illegitimate son, because the prophet Abraham would not have committed an immoral act. Apparently, so we are told, the Kaaba is not an idolatrous worship of an ancient stone.  I think one could be forgiven for seeing it as such.  It parallels the worship toward Jerusalem, where the temple has been destroyed, as Jesus foretold, and all of this sort of thing has become irrelevant.

And to which we would have to say:  of course, Abraham could have made a mistake and why should it matter, now?  Why should Abraham's virtue matter now, and why should the lineage or the place matter?  Both Jews and Muslims have a skewed vision.  All the patriarchs had their flaws.  Moses was a murder and had lost his temper, nor was a decent orator.  Jacob played favorites among his wives and sons causing his own grief and that of others.  But God brought good out of all these weaknesses and follies. He worked with such messes as the best of us are.  God is the only hero and all prophets have clay feet.  We could go on.  So, yes, Abraham made a mistake, because he was not trusting firmly in the promise, and the son of promise is Isaac.  The Kaaba is set in juxtaposition to that.

But it need not be.

Both Jerusalem's temple mount and the Kaaba really are in juxtaposition to something else, to something better and higher, something that works for the modern day and all people.

In Christ, all believers, no matter nationality or genetics, are legitimate children of God and of Abraham, the father of the people who have faith.  As Jesus said to the Samaritan woman:  it does not matter what mountain you worship on--only drink of the living water!  Confess your sins and trust in Christ, the Messiah, who is standing right in front of you.  She believed, too, and ran to tell her village;  she became a child of Abraham, too, that day, no matter what her lineage, and certainly, Christ was no respecter of such bloodlines.  Again and again he draws in the Samaritans and the women and other marginalized people.   It has all become irrelevant.  As we drink his blood, we are all his offspring.  We are born anew into an international body of followers.

Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem, Rome, Berlin, Tibet, New York, any promised land... IT DOES NOT MATTER ANYMORE.  Nor Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Sarah, Hagar... this desert or that, this oasis or that, this mountain or that, this plain or that, this season or that, this moon or that solstice... NONE of it matters.  Christ in all and through all.

The gate of heaven is here, where you live, at your local church who offers forgiveness and new life in the body of Christ.  Your brother and sister is the next person who believes in Jesus, no matter the tribe or race or color.   This is why Christians put up a cross.  It is not an idol to worship.  It reminds us of the living body of Christ who is among us and whose love is available to ALL of US.

There are two rocks.  There is the rock of the Kaaba, which speaks to pride and shame and who is good and who is bad.  And there is Christ, the rock, who speaks to forgiveness and love for each one of us.

There is the rock of the Kaaba who requires sacrifice.  And there is Christ, the rock, who gave himself as the ransom, so that we could live.

Matthew 11:28-30New International Version (NIV)

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

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