Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - September 13, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

SD-13: After today, there will be a break in these reflections. I will be away and may not have access to the Internet.


Once again, I find that I need someone who can bring all of this into the present. I must hear it out of the context of wars in Saudi Arabia in the time of the Prophet. I must hear something other than what to do about the ones who do not follow the path. Who are they - What makes them less than the faithful - Is it the patterns within their day - Is it the appearance of being 'obedient' in a manner that is ritually correct? Then again, I know that there will be words of being merciful to others. I have simply found that such mercy is contained for those who are faithful or those who have fallen and need to have some aid. I am quite confounded. Maybe a break will be good. Maybe if I read a larger section of the Qur'an I will be able to taste what is so delicious to Muslims. In this sura on Repentance we hear this about believers who: "are those who turn to God in repentance; who worship and praise Him; who fast, bow down and prostrate themselves; who order what is good, forbid what is wrong and observe God's limits. Give glad news to such believers." 

And yet, even here there is not much to go on. Is the daily rituals? It also sounds like it is the ability to know what is good and what is wrong. I would expect that it is not merely knowing this but living in this way. What I would like would be more about that 'way.' It does not have to be a list of do this and don't do that. It can be in parabolic form. When Jesus uses  parables, they are often the Word that cuts to the chase and turns the world upside down so that the Way really opens up and - at times - seems a bit ridiculous. Such parables often place upon the listener a compelling urge to turn around - repent - grab hold of a new way. Maybe this is also what I will hear in these words from the Qur'an. I'm not sure.


Connection: What happens when we do not have to 'defend' the faith. Does it come to an end. No. We are taught that all the powers of the cosmos cannot put an end to the grace and mercy of God. And yet, we too often try to convince ourselves that we are the protectors of the 'faith' - I think we have something mixed up.


Blessed are you, God of Mercy, we count on you to pull us up and help us to stand within the grace and mercy of your Reign. For there in that place - we enter into a freedom that is eternally available and a gift that cannot be taken from us.  Amen.



Monday, September 12, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - September 12, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

SD-12:  Again, I may comment less on the sura "Battle Gains" than on how I come to such writing from a Christian perspective  


This sura is set to respond to what the Muslims are to do when battle is won - what do you do with the 'stuff.'  In the Hebrew Scriptures this is done within the story telling of the defeat of the Canaanites. In those stories, there was to be no booty kept by the people. It was not theirs to keep. God was victorious not the warriors. Well this is quite the same here in the Qur'an. But as I've noted previously, we do not hear the story of the battle or a story of a misdeed. We simply are given the prohibitions.

As I was reading I wanted to come up with a comparable story about warfare and how one is to fight and then deal with the end of a battle. We have no story like ones in the Qur'an or the Hebrew Scriptures. Our 'Christian' battles were fought after our 'book' was closed or close to being closed. WE took on the ethic of empire. It isn't until much later do we hear of the just war argument. If there is war -  this is what must be in place. I won't state those items here - but they were set up to make sure war did not brutalize non-combatant.  Well, under those rules, no Christian can be involved in any of the wars in which we find ourselves.

At the same time, the fighting in the Qur'an had to do with defending the young faith from attacks by 'polytheist' who were our to kill the Muslims.  The same can be seen in the stories of the Jews.

Christians do not go to war against other religions - unless of course you look at the Crusades and the wars during the Holy Roman Empire. In those wars, there was an Empire Religion that was Christianity. But, I would insist, these were not Christian wars.

Finally, I must say that even in our country, the themes and sounds of Christianity are used to rally the 'troops' to pick up arms and fight.  They must be defeated so that the life we have (which so many say is a Christian life) will not be threatened by anyone.

On this day after the 9-11 anniversary, I would refer back to an excellent sermon I heard yesterday. It was all about forgiveness. That is our way of waging war - if you can even call it that. We forgive - even when there is good reason to demand retribution. We forgive - foolishly.  We are to be a part of the resistance to our warring madness. This is not a easy way. This is not self-preserving. It is to be the end of warring madness in which one side must prove to the world that we are right and the other is wrong. We are to forgive so that the future does not continue to spin the same old stories that make war necessary.


Connection: If all we do is forgive - where would we be?  I cannot even begin to speculate - it is too foreign - alien. And yet, that is what the Apostle Paul would remind us - we are aliens in this place. We are not of this world. This is not talking about another place. It is talking about a life that is now available - but one that is absurd. Absurdity Lutheran Church - how would that play on the sign board?


Blessed are you, God of Mercy, for it is within your gracious Reign that we are given the power to forgive and begin again as though we are a part of your living Word in the world today.  Amen.




Sunday, September 11, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - September 11, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

SD-11:  On this 10th anniversary of 9/11 we hear of "The Heights" - which are the heights of the barrier which will divide the righteous from the damned on the Day of Judgement.  

This sura is a litany of a summary of stories of people who have been disobedient over the period of the Hebrew Scriptures and up to the day of the Prophet. We hear about disbelievers - and - their punishment. I am growing tired of such an ongoing rant.

Yes, I like the way we are being called to faithfulness - but it is always under the threat of punishment - good old fire and complete ruin. Here is what is said about the heights:

A barrier divided the two groups with men on its heights recognizing each group by their marks: they will call out to the people of the Garden, 'Peace be with you!' - they will not have entered, but they will be hoping, and when their glance falls upon the people of the Fire, they will say, 'Our Lord, do not let us join the evildoers!' - and the people of the heights will call out to certain men they recognize by their marks, 'What use were your great numbers and your false pride? And are these the people you swore God would never bless?

It goes on and on.

So on this day I wonder about the 'faithful' who rammed planes into buildings and a field in PA. In the name of their God - they willfully kill innocent people (This is not to say that they saw the structures as evil in their eyes). And yet, when all people are taught to see is this is right - that is wrong, or this is holy - that is unholy, or this is good - that is evil, the warfare never ceases. All we will have left is another day when another prophet will rise up and say the same thing in a new age.

As long as there is 'a barrier' there will be no peace and it is a meaningless for any religious group - Muslim, Jew, Christian - to attempt to greet one another in peace. It is not what we want. We want our side of the barrier to be right and good.

Maybe that is the real brokenness or false faith - we want to be the on the side of the Judge who is able to condemn and also call out the faithful. What a dangerous place to try and put anyone.


Connection: Listen for the Good News - wherever it may be. Learn to be able to distinguish it from all the other stuff that is sold as the truth. This is in all the stuff we hear coming from the mouths and reading of all religious groups - and - all national groups 


Blessed are you, God of Mercy, draw us together under the graciousness of your Reign that brings together all your beloved even when we seem to be able to nothing but wage war and demonize others that you call your own. It is only by your loving power that we can be more than people who remain divided. Amen.




Saturday, September 10, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - September 10, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

SD-10:  Today it is "Livestock" - but that is not what I will take on in this reflection.


It is most important to catch the simple admonition to be faithful to one God alone. The Prophet's revelation is one that counters the life and practices of the polytheists - those who have multiple gods. Later in the sura, we will hear: When God wishes to guide someone, He open their breast to islam (devotion to God). Within the tribal systems of that ancient culture, this was a radical move. It was also radical because - in essence - both Judaism and Christianity seemed to be a failing witness to this one God. Not that they failed - but it was not as true to the devotion as is expected here. On the even of the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, it might be from this kind of thought that we come up with some of the thinking behind the attacks. This is complete speculation, but at times it makes sense to me. It also will, in no way, justify the violence of that day.

If there is such a strong words against polytheists, then we must ask about those other gods to which people offer their lives. The attacks hit financial centers and military/government centers of our country. In some ways we could say that we have often been called 'the great Satan' because of our devotion to 'gods' other than God. The war-like strategy of terrorism - the willingness to sacrifice one's life - the utter disrespect of the lives of the victims - is part of a cosmic battle against evil. To some Muslims, we - like other societies - have many gods and we are seen as being oppressive and threatening the existence of Islam (devotion to God). Our 'gods' are weapons and finance  some might argue.

Having said all this, it is good to remember that Muslims are to honor Christians and Jews who follow the book. The book gives us the will of the one God. And yet, at the same time, these holy 'warriors' and their leaders have given themselves the power to judge all of us in the same boat. It is the ultimate sin of religious movements that go sour - clumping everyone into one category without entering into dialogue. The beauty of Islam is this devotion to God - justice - mercy. And yet, like extremists in all the Abrahamic faiths, some want to go farther. Some do not merely want to shape their lives around the Word they have been given. They want to be able to judge they world through their own reasoning and interpretation of their own books.

This is all a very simplistic and 'from the hip' piece today - but I think we must all wrestle with what we are doing in our world as people of faith.


Connection: Followers of Jesus are to be the love of God in the world - a love that does not scapegoat or turn the day into a hunt for who is wrong and who can be blamed for life as it is. Rather, we take side with the ones at whom the world is pointing.  Our love is one that pulls us to the side of the ones who the world would crucify. We do that with the confidence that this kind of love will be seen and it will be the power of new life. No violence.


Blessed are you, God of Mercy, for you are the hope of the world as you continue to bless us to be the living word within our day. Let you Spirit continue to move us and make us into a holy people. Amen.




Friday, September 9, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - September 9, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

SD-9:  If golf was in the Qur'an, there would have been a devotion written on that. Not so. Therefore we continue with "The Feast"


Here we are given information on what are the things that can be eaten. But that is not all. I find that the number of prohibitions increase. We are offered all sorts of ways that one is to clean one's self. Again, this is probably very important in the societies of that day - but I found myself questioning the meaning for today. Much time is spent on a retelling - from a certain perspective - the story of Moses people and a bit of Mary's son. Though each are held up highly, they all have fallen. And yet - and I may be miss reading this - as Jews or Christians live according to their teachings, they are not considered 'other.' They are faithful. That makes so much sense if there is the strong belief that there is one God only. Here is a piece I drew into questions simply from a theological point of view as a Christian.
We sent Jesus, son of Mary, in their footsteps, to confirm the Torah that had been sent before him: We gave him the Gospel with guidance, light, and confirmation of the Torah already revealed - a guide and lesson for those who take heed of God. So let the followers of the Gospel judge according to what God has sent down in it. Those who do not judge according to what God has revealed are lawbreakers.
Several comments are needed here. Jesus 'announced the Good News (gospel). The announcement was his life. Mere teaching is nothing. Life - word in the flesh - is the story we tell as Christians. Yes, it was the same word that is brought  forth in the Torah and yet, it is once again taken out of the context of ritualization and sacrifice. There is no longer a holy place - there is a holy people known by their lives of forgiveness. Now if that was the case (people known by their radical forgiveness) it seems as though the Qur'an respects and honors such people - the same is with those who are followers of Moses. Faithfulness to the one God - is essential and worthy of honor and respect. I may have this wrong -but it sure feels like that.  When it reads: you who believe, if any of you go back on your faith, God will soon replace you with people He loves and who love Him, people who are humble towards the believers, hared on the disbelievers -
Faithfulness and the life that comes from such faithfulness is vital. I do not hear that to mean mere ritual - but life. Ritual cannot be humble - a living faith can be.
Connection: Forgive me if you already understand the Qur'an and find my remarks odd and way off. That is why I wanted to read and comment as an outsider and as one who clings to my God as the source of life. In and through all of Scripture, I am very dismissive of the 'ancient' and 'tribal'  rules that are sometimes made to be more prominent than the liberation and beauty of faithfulness that literally is a light of new life to the world.


Blessed are you, God of Mercy, for you welcome all who call on your name for guidance through life and the power to turn to a new way of being known as your beloved people each day. Praise to you, Our God. Amen.




Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - September 7, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

SD-7:  Today is a bit of an interlude - an aside to this read through of the Qur'an and my comments as one who has just picked up the book and started to read.


I miss story telling. As difficult as it can be to follow the stories of Genesis and other books within the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, the stories are like precious gifts that I have not appreciated enough. So far I am hearing 'teachings' and 'command' and 'prohibitions' and 'praise.' I'm hearing statements that make much sense and others that come from another time and place that have little to do with life today.
I miss story telling. Within story telling comes an openness to interpretation. Interpretation is a community event. We all read things a bit differently. That difference in reading is good - as long as we share the differences and begin to discuss what is possible and what may be quite absurd. In addition, we may even learn that what sounds and seems absurd my be the most powerful truth to be put before us.
I miss story telling. Tell me the story of Jesus on the water - tired and sad and needing space and yet he sees the crowds (a needy and desperate bunch) and he goes to them and without any conditions feeds them. In addition, the miracle of the people eating and sharing outside the bounds of custom or law or ruling. This was no scene of utter hunger - it was simply late in the day and food was available for folks to eat. We could take this story in so many way and be witnesses to the many faces of grace and love. But - here is what is so important - we must tell the story. We must tell the story that shapes the Good News. The Good News is not a teaching - it is a life story. We read it - we are invited into it.
Having said all of this, the Qur'an also reminds us that this story telling is fine and good - but the people still ignored it. That is, the life that the Good News brings is left to the side and the grace and mercy and compassion of God does not become us. Here in these first suras of the Qur'an, I sense that a 'way' is being put forth - a way with very deliberate gates and fences meant to keep one on the straight path. I must wrestle with what I am hearing. 


Connection: We each have our story or teachings. It is then a question of how we take them and have them become us so that the merciful - the gracious - the forgiving - the creator of all is available to the world through us - as us.


Blessed are you, God of Mercy, for your call to life is the power of life that can change the moment into a wealth of your image. We are in need of such a gift that feeds us and then sustains us along the way today. Amen.




Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - September 6, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

SD-6:  The sura for today is labeled: Women - #4.  


I understand that even today women do not have equality when it comes to pay in the workplace. I don't like that - but it is a reality that seems to have no end. In line with that, I know that within the Church, there are some partners that will not allow women to serve as do men. We come up with many reasons - none of them of any worth in my opinion. Women cannot be priests we are told by some - because Jesus had all male apostles. Well, when the men did not have the courage or the wit about them to stay alongside Jesus, there were women. When God acted and raised Jesus from the dead - the men were back in town trembling and they missed being the ones who were the first witnesses of the resurrection. Although, just as we see in the Qu'ran, women do not count as men. Take this passage from today's sura: Concerning your children, God commands you that a son should have the equivalent share of two daughters. If there are only daughters, more than two should share two-thirds of the inheritance, if one, she should have half.
This male and female divide that we see in all the Scriptures of the Abrahamic faiths belongs in another time. Does it really have anything to do with the God we call one - and - God alone? Does it really have anything to do with a devotion to God - to will one thing? Maybe in the ancient world.
If we cannot see the image of God in both men and women and understand that together they make life full and bring renewal and life, then give it up. I know that some read material from the various Scriptures and say that women are honored. And yet, if that woman does not give birth to a boy - bring on another woman. I have seen this since I was a child. A couple would have a girl and then another girl and even in front of the girls they would talk about the sadness of not having a boy. Some women would even have to risk their health and well-being in order to keep trying to bring forth a male child.
To such notions, we all must hang our heads for a moment and repent of such thoughts and actions that hold one person above another because of their gender. Yes, in ancient days many children were needed to carry on the family name and males were needed to keep the family name going. But what if the family is the whole of God's people. The individual family name is nothing.


Connection: What will it take to experience this God that is claimed to be One and yet devote our lives to a way that is not cluttered with sexual bias and rules for primitive societies. Rules are wonderful guides - but those rules must change as time passes and our lives together are transformed into life that was not previously known. We do not abandon rules as though they do not count - but when they do not serve our life together what good are they? Old rules can be changed and made into new guides and aids that build us up - all of us - as one.


Blessed are you, God of Mercy, for your continue to give birth that is greater than what we can see. You deliver us into new lands and offer us new life - it is always life that unfolds with grace and mercy extended to all. Amen.




Monday, September 5, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - September 5, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

SD-5:  Today I am remaining in the sura called "The family of 'Imran.' The names of these suras simply come from an image or person that is used frequently or named within the piece.
As I said yesterday, there is some harsh language of condemnation used throughout this sura. I really did not know how to deal with it. There is a constant thread of 'if' and 'then' that is always able to turn me away from the reading. Now - am I turned away because I do not like this image of God. Or - am I turned away because it really does point to something I need to hear. Probably both. Here is one example: God loves those who keep their pledges and are mindful of Him, but those who sell out God's covenant and their own oaths for a small price will have no share in the life to come.
First of all, I would have to say the first portion is right on as it pertains to those who walk in a clear devotion to God. At the same time the love of our God is not reserved for or contingent on what we do. It is a love that is the foundation of who we are. It is the power that makes us into the image of God's love. In that way, even those who 'sell out' are ones who our God loves. God's love is the only power that can pull one out of the ways of self-consumption and often makes us 'sell out.' Though I have said that, I must also say that what is being brought forth by the Prophet about those who 'sell out God's covenant' are those who are turning from the life that is this image of God alive within the human community. I suppose I would even say that if we turn from this way, there is no way we will share in the life that comes from such devotion to God.
I guess my point here (and I admit it may not be clear and may be a knee jerk notion) is one of language. Over and over again, I am hearing teaching that is always like a parent attempting to stir a child to do this and not do that. When parents do that, we do tend to punish and reward. It can make life seem like one that is built on reward and punishment - laced in threat. But this One God is more than that. We are refined by love. We see our actions and our deeds as they rest up against a love that has the power to transform. This is the God who creates simply because God wants to create out of a love for all things. 
Connection: There is a strong sense of duty for one to do a pilgrimage a duty owed to God by people. Is the pilgrimage to a place? I would ask that of pilgrimages in all faiths. Mecca may be the place that goes back to the days of Abraham but the holiness of a place cannot be more important than the pilgrimage we all make into the life that is the heart of all our faiths - the love of God. I do not favor trips to the "Holy Land" or journeys along paths once walked by beloved saints of old because those places are not to be our focus. The pilgrimage is always into the heart of our faith and that take place even as I sit here and you sit there and we enter this day. 


Blessed are you, God of Mercy, we know that you draw us into your love no matter where we are and where we see our lives going. Sustain us this day that our devotion to you will open our lives to a new journey where you rule through a mercy and love that no power can overcome. Amen.





Sunday, September 4, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - September 4, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

SD-4:  The 3rd sura in the Qur'an is also long and carries a boatload of stuff. I do not think I can even try to unpack it all - it would take days to comment on all the things I both like and dislike. So I will once again go with what strikes me. Again, this comes as one who has no understanding of the Qur'an


Let me begin with the simple interpretation of the word Islam - complete devotion to God. This is what read in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. Nothing new here. But as I would say even if I did not read the Qur'an - this is not an easy path within our world. There are so many ways to walk away from God's love and the life that this love hands to us in each of our days. In doing a very little reading about the historical context of the life of the Prophet, it was, as noted on a previous day, a tribal society that was lead by clans and families. That could be really good for you -or it could be very bad for you. (I refer you to the adventures of Kirsi Ali as she writes of her travails of leaving the present day life of a clans in Somalia and her adventure that has led her to the U.S.) Something had to change. This kind of life was one of warfare and division. Islam was a wonderful gift to such a times and people. In this sura there is an attempt to tie Islam to the other People of the Book. Therefore we hear of Abraham, Mary, John, Jesus. So far, what I can distill is that if you are a faithful follower of the God of the Jews and the Christians - you are blessed. The completed devotion to God is what is sought. Soren Kirkegaard would say it is the "will one thing."
If we were able to see this simple connection between the 'faiths' wouldn't we all be doing better than we are. But - we then get into the language of damnation - fire - rejection - purity. It is here that we stumble. Here is where we become more caught up on a route to 'being right' rather than a journey where love rules.
Tomorrow I want to deal a bit with some of the harsh language of condemnation - to some degree.
Connection: Devotion to God always pulls us away from that powerful self-centeredness that Luther called "turned-in-on-self." For we then lift up our eyes an ears to hear something other than our own voices, wants, greeds, and even needs that can overwhelm us. In my faithful imagination I can see a day when these three faiths that are mentioned in this sura are able to -as I will always sing it - 'bow and bend' until we become the word that we each claim comes from our God. It is my bet that our bending and bowing will not be extreme - only necessary.


Blessed are you, God of Mercy, continue to turn our eyes and ears to you way. Amen.






Saturday, September 3, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - September 3, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

SD-3:  Today I read through the second sura "The Cow." It is the longest sura in the Qur'an. It really goes all over the place.
Over and over again, I'm hearing "this is the way we live." It is always set within the context of 'being mindful of God.' I like that. It is stated at the beginning of this sura. But then, I really heard words of advice to an ancient civilization - in many ways like those in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. That is not saying they are wrong or not needed. In fact, many of the instructions are wonderful. This example is in regard to charitable giving: Satan threatens you with the prospect of poverty and commands you to do foul deeds; God promises you His forgiveness and His abundance: God is limitless and all knowing. We need to try that line in a stewardship program. Better yet, the next time "Christian" people in our country go about complaining about the money we don't have and how we must take control of our money and not 'give it away' to the poor - we must say stop! Financial fears make us less than ones who are 'mindful of God.'
There are teachings on divorce. Though they always point to that same 'mindfulness,' there is still the contextual reality of an ancient tribal people where women really are not viewed as men. For example: it takes two women to be the equivalent witness as one man - this is needed in case one of the women forgets what she heard.
Finally, I heard Jesus throughout this sura. Not to much in how the directives are given - but in how they point to mercy and justice and the well-being of folks and a purity of heart that is always essential. Listen to this one: If you give charity openly, it is good, but if you keep it secret and give to the needy in private, that is better for you, and it will atone for some of your bad deeds. Now this sounds like Jesus - to a point.  We do not give to atone for our sins. We would say we cannot atone for our sins. That has been done by our God who calls us to live within a reality in which we are righteous before God - beloved by God. The action by God shapes our character. 

Connection: Though there are many contextual issues in these words, they still hold up for us a vision that is not always followed. How would 'being mindful of God' impact our day!?
Blessed are you, God of Mercy, for you continue to hold us and keep us as your beloved and from there, this day begins anew. Amen.






Friday, September 2, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - September 2, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

SD-2:  Yesterday I noted that we all fall down. I wrote that in the context of my initial journey into reading the Qur'an. Obviously, it is good to read something about the Qur'an before reading it. This would also be true for the Hebrew or Christian scriptures. We all fall down has to do with a very small observation - we all fall down. The notion that one religion is better than another is false. There is such a strong pull in each group to become the word. Don't just read it. Don't even just memorize it. That is nothing. Become the word. I was particularly struck by the number of times the word Mercy was used in the very first - and brief - sura. It was used in association with God. That - is my God. That is the God I have come to love and honor. That is one of the character traits of God that I prayerfully ask would be one of my traits. But alas, I fall down. Do you?


In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy! Praise belongs to God, Lord of the Worlds, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy, Master of the Day of Judgment. It is You we worship; it is You we ask for help. Guide us to the straight path: the path of those You have blessed, those who incur no anger and who have not gone astray.
The translator of this sura made a note in how he offered a change. It was simply at the last sentence that blessed people. He notes that an important change is "those who incur no anger." It is not God who is angry at the people - it is as though people act contrary to the life God has handed us. The blessing - if I may - is the life in which God Reigns. That life - that living word - is blessed because in that life it shows that mercy can Reign among us - it is the straight path. This path leads to an unfolding respect and honoring of the other -not because of what they do, but because of how we embody the mercy that is our God's.

Connection: Oh it is not easy to be a reflection of the mercy of our God. Much easier to condemn - even if we all fall down doing it.


Blessed are you, God of Mercy, for you hold us up as we enter this day so that your mercy will be available to all. Amen.






Thursday, September 1, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - September 1, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

 Sabbatical Day 1: I started reading the Qur'an today. I do not know if I will read all of it. And yet, that is what is what "qur'an" means - Read. That is what the Prophet Mohammed was told to do. From that initial instruction - to a man who could not read - comes this work that has captured billions.
Reading with some sense of the substance of Judaism and Christianity - and close to zero information or knowledge about the Qur'an - this journey will be filled with impressions from an outsider. Having said that, one of the beginning assumptions is that we are 'people of the book.' We have been handed a word to take in - a word to eat - a word that will become us. When we are willing to step back from any of our traditions and teachings and look at the impact those words have on our lives, my first observation is that we all fall down. We all have brilliant words that open up are minds and our eyes and our ears and our hearts. They are words that are able to transform us. They transform us into the living word of our God. Quite an amazing journey takes place as this word becomes life. The Opening of the Qur'an is a simple sura of praise:
In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy! Praise belongs to God, Lord of the  Worlds, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy, Master of the Day of Judgment. It is You we worship; it is You we ask for help. Guide us to the straight path: the path of those You have blessed, those who incur no anger and who have not gone astray.
The very first line is the beginning verse of most of the suras. But look at what is most prominent - mercy. If such a merciful God is the "Master of the Day of Judgement" - what a day that will be! When we say that Jesus will come to Judge the living and the dead, we too can say: What a day that will be!  For in that day there will be the one who opens up the future. Nothing has power over that word handed to us: a word that judges us with unbounded mercy. Now, when we hear of this judgment day, why do we keep putting it off to another day. Is it that we give ourselves a way out - a way to act as we please for we will surely be 'forgiven'? The word spoken to us - the word that is meant to become us - shapes the day at hand. No waiting. It is now. Mercy prevails - we live under that Reign.

Connection: In this first sura, it says: Guide us to the straight path. Paths are meant to be taken. We do not look at them. We take a step and then another. The steps we take are embraced by our God who - under many names and yet one God - is always inviting and calling us into God's own image. 


Blessed are you, God of Mercy, for you shape our day with your word of promise and life. Amen.