When You’ve Found Him, Bring Me Word – No Time for 'Light Under a Bushel'

Brace yourself! THIS is a Jell-O sermon. It's wiggly-wobbly. There's a personal history here. I've spoken of blind Uncle Harvey, in my boyhood home. Despite not a ray of light, he'd learned to eat immaculately, (a real feat to a 9 year old). 'Never a drop, drip or morsel misplaced. Except for Jell-O, called the nervous dessert. You can imagine why. Well, today's is a nervous dessert message. The material won't stand still for fork, spoon, or knife. The subject: Christian-Muslim Conversation. It ends our series on the world's response to Jesus. It's the, "After Christmas, then what?" challenge. Matthew reminds: some adore him (hurray for cameled kings!), some would destroy him (Do hiss at Herod!). We've moved past those who follow the Star of David. We've wrestled with the secular "Savior review." Now we come to those who hear the call to pray from the minaret, not the manger.  

There's troubled history here. Hurt, pain, anger, confusion. It's hard to speak to each other because of how we feel about each other. 'Truth is, we hardly know each other. Most of us'd be surprised at Islam's view of Jesus. Most of them would wiggle and wobble in their distress at us, if they knew Jesus more. We can't handle all this in 20 minutes. (It's like Uncle Harv tryin' to clean-plate his Jell-O.) But we can put ourselves in a better position to pray for each other and to live together. 

Let's start here. It would please God and help our world for Christians and Muslims to see each other more as relatives and less as cartoons, evil ones at that. It would be well to know what we actually believe, alike and differently. It would help to hold more tightly to our shared hope than to our mutual fear.  

Relatives, not cartoons. Relatives come to us in living color. The good, the bad, the ugly. 3-dimensional! Cartoons are only two. Cartoons let us adore or revile too easily. So no cartoons today. 

I am a Christian. I believe Jesus is God's son, come down from heaven, sprung from the line of Abraham, raised up through the line of David. He was a miracle and performed miracles. He died on the cross to save me from my sin; not just me/ mine, but for the sins/sinners of the whole world. I believe God raised him from the dead to sit at God's right hand. He calls me and others in his name to come and be with him. His hand's in ours as we face the Throne of Judgment and Grace. I do not and cannot believe else wise. But am not diminished, or my faith, to hear another journey.  

From Adam through Noah to his son Shem (these are Semite souls, like the Jewish side of our family tree), came Abraham and his son Ishmael, father of Arabs and Islam. Now, God has made great covenants by great prophets. Noah first. Moses second. (Did you know Islam makes room for Moses?) Jesus third. [There's love for Bethlehem's Star beneath the Crescent Muslim Moon. There is reverence. Even praise. But because God is one, ONLY one, Allah… Al (THE) Llah (God) there is no room for God-in-Flesh. Christmas cancels Christ, long before the Cross.] Now, better to live for deliverance than indesperation. So 570 years past Jesus, Mohammad's born, the fourth and Greatest Prophet, say Muslims. Mohammad: orphaned, a shepherd, destitute. He's appalled by no knowledge of one God, but dalliance with many; by poverty, chaos, violence. Later a caravaner (a teamster), he marries. 'Off to a cave where God, One and Only speaks to Muhammad the Pure-hearted, Upright and True. "Proclaim!" says God's angel. He protests. But by the third time, he's become a prophet. His wife's his first convert. Like most prophets he's persecuted. Unlike most he ends up ruler and amazing reformer of his city, and society and all its tribes (5 in all. Get this, 2 Arab, 3 Jewish!). He becomes an able ruler, a fierce fighter for his people, and so utterly reforms all Arabia he's thought a world-class reformer! To him (alone!) comes God's Word, he believes, the Koran (meaning, the Recitation). He will claim it his only miracle. What a story. Millions claim it. 

No cartoons, these folks: relatives! Real souls, drawing God-breath. Like Daisy Kahn Rauf. O, her mom and granny grew up under Imam/teachers who said: Girls are 2nd class. (Muhammad said not. But the faithful often err, like the church in refusing women so much, though they were Easter's earliest witnesses.) Daisy was born Friday the 13th. A boy was expected. Mom and dad were OK with girl #3! Granny mourned and wailed. Grandpa came home. Muslim scholar Grandpa. "Has someone died?" he gasped. "No; it's a girl!" he's told. He bolts the stairs to meet Daisy, newborn and uncleaned. He wraps her, bloodied, in his sacred prayer shawl, his greatest earthly treasure. He lifts her to the window. "This child is a gift from God!" he announces. Daisy grew up, his favorite grand! You and I have such stories. We are relatives. Not cartoons.  

So much for our humanness. Let's talk theology. Beliefs! Finally!

I can't possibly do this in detail. So let me brush most broadly. *Our fundamental differences: 1) Jesus: Messiah or prophet alone; 2) The Word: inspired/in flesh or implanted/recited; 3) Faith: as obedience or surrender; 4) Eternity: by grace or by mercy.

*Our great agreements: 1) One God, creator, sustainer, Judge/Hope

2) The Godly good image of humankind, 3) The life of devotion, 4) The judgment of God (we are accountable). I don't expect you'll remember all this. But do hold tight and know: We are deeply, irreconcilably different in faith from our Muslim relatives. And yet by volume, we are startlingly kin. (Deeply related.)

Quickly, let's look closer. Nothing so separates us as our view of Jesus. Savior for us. God in the flesh. His face: God's heart. To Muslims, Jesus speaks for God, not as God. For us, as for Jews, God speaks in history through people and events. For us Jesus IS God's Word. And that Word is interpreted and experienced, living in the Body of Believers, the Church. To Muslims, the Word has come to and through Muhammad alone, to be recited & lived – literally, with increasing clarity, but without further revelation. The nature of faithlife differs. Christians/Jews strive for obedience to God. But it comes by wrestling (remember Jacob) and growing (Jesus says, "You've heard it said… but I say." Paul says, "Be transformed by the renewal of your mind.") But the very word Islam means surrender. It derives from the word for peace (SaLaM). In full, Islam means "the peace that comes when we surrender our life to God." Don't miss this difference. Our OT God loves Israel, a "stiff necked" people. Jesus makes head-strong Peter his Rock. Islam requires submission. And a single holy voice, one man revealing all of God. [This very structure: one voice, total surrender, gives rise to the extremism that currently distorts Islam and diverts so many to blind devotion to singular/sad leaders.] Where we lean on grace for salvation, mercy is more Islamic, God-given, but swayed by believer's acts.

Christians, Muslims and Jews hold much in common. We're no accident. God's our Maker. We and the world have a purpose: God's glory. All three say we are in God's image. (Though we believe in the Fall, original sin; Islam has no such, we merely forget who/se we are.) We all hold the life of devotion honors God. Islam calls this the Five Pillars. Creed (beliefs), Prayer [5X cf. 50…cf. Sinai], Charity, Ramadan (extended fasting), Pilgrimage [Mecca, Jerusalem, Via Dolorosa]. And we all believe in a final judgment, though we describe it quite differently; ourselves, clinging to Christ! 

Whew! If you're even still with me, is your head swimming? Mine is. And I know I've come near home in this with no reference to the Bible lessons of the day. Here's why. The first is the 10 Commandments. God first. No substitutes. Honor THE  name. A day apart. Mom & dad! No killing, lusting, stealing, lies or latching onto other's loves or stuff. This ethic, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad share. If practiced by their followers, so much misery would disappear. I wanted to save that word to share near the end. And then there's Matthew 5 and sweet Jesus' words. You and I to be a light. A beacon. A city on a hill that can't be hid! "Let your light so shine, all may see your good works and give glory to our Father in heaven." Do the holy life! Live the commandments…as never before! Don't just not kill, don't hate. (They're the same.) Don't get all religious 'til you get right with those you've wronged, or have wronged you. Live without wandering with your eye on each other; look to God, whose eye's on you! Better you should lose your eye, arm or leg, than your Life in Heaven with God! 

We live in perilous times. We misunderstand so much, mistreat so many all across the human family. Trouble surrounds. Terror torments. And so much of both, so sadly, in God's name. Is there no way out, and nothing we can do? Some practical words here. 1) We can see and treat each other as relatives, not cartoons. We all draw the same God-breath. 2) We can learn each other's hearts, our faiths. We can learn what's different and what difference that makes. And we can cling to what is shared, to find new ways to live together as God's children, all. 3) We can BE the light we claim to see. You and I can be more/more like Jesus. He IS the WAY. We can show the Way. We hold him best, arms outreached. That is the Way of the Cross!

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