Jesus Was No Stranger to Persistent Hope

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The following is an Easter meditation from Churches for Middle East Peace, an organization that promotes interfaith initiatives for peace in the Holy Land.  

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.”
Luke 24: 1-10

Early in the morning, a group of women, including Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and others, walked to the tomb where Jesus had been buried. I imagine them walking in silence, some of them with tears running down their cheeks, others in a daze. Their eyes are still adjusting to the morning light. One of them is carrying the spices they had prepared the night before, to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. As they approach the tomb, they see the stone rolled away. This, in and of itself, would be cause for alarm. Who had been there before them? They cautiously walk into the tomb and find it empty. What happens next would cause anyone to be terrified. Two men in dazzling clothes (AKA angels) stood beside them and began to speak to them. These heavenly beings remind the women what Jesus had told them about how he would rise again on the third day. Immediately after their conversation, the women return to the eleven disciples and tell them everything that had happened. Hallelujah! What terrific news!

Jesus was no stranger to persistent hope. Jesus taught these women, and his disciples, what it meant to persistently hope. To have hope is more than a wish. It involves knowledge of something true, that hasn’t happened yet. It’s not a premonition, or some special kind of revelation. It’s the hope we carry with us even when circumstances seem dire. It’s the hope that propels us forward in the face of uncertainty and fear. This is the kind of hope exhibited by the women that morning. It seemed as though everything was lost. Their Lord had been crucified. What would happen to them, his followers? Still, they faithfully went to the tomb to honor him by preparing his body for burial. Although none of them expected to find the tomb empty, I imagine them replaying Jesus’ words on the walk to the tomb. What did Jesus mean when he said he would rise again on the third day? Maybe it was this wondering which propelled them to go to the tomb that morning.

Palestinian and Israeli women are often the most overlooked, yet effective peacemakers.

FULL ARTICLE FROM  CHURCHES FOR MIDDLE EAST PEACE 

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Two Muslim families entrusted with care of holy Christian site for centuries

keyJerusalem (CNN)The key to one of Christianity’s holiest sites is held by a Muslim family, and it has been for centuries. This is more than just tradition. It is the very essence of Jerusalem, part of what makes the Old City’s cultural and religious history so special.

We meet Adeeb Joudeh at the Jaffa Gate to the Old City. It is 3:30 a.m. At this hour, the tension of the city has melted into the darkness. The narrow alleys are eerily quiet. As Joudeh makes his way through the city’s deserted streets, his footsteps are unnaturally loud, echoing off the walls of the empty stone streets.
He carries with him an ancient cast-iron key, some 500 years old. The key is 12 inches long, with a triangular metal handle and a square end.
It is the key to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where many believe Jesus Christ was crucified and entombed. The church is one of Christianity’s holiest sites, and many Christian denominations share this holy space for prayer. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world make a pilgrimage here for the Easter holidays. Few are aware of Joudeh’s significance, and how important a part his Muslim ancestors have played in the story of this holy place.
Joudeh’s family has held the key in their protection for generations. In his house, Joudeh keeps a binder full of pictures of his grandfather and great-grandfather who once held this sacred task, and his family has kept the historic contracts bestowing upon his family this job, written on parchment and signed in golden ink. The oldest dates back to 1517.
“This is the family heritage,” Joudeh says, smiling as he talks. “It’s all we own as a family, and this is an honor not only for our family. This is an honor for all Muslims in the world.”

Easter in Islam: Christ is risen and will return

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Easter is celebrated to varying degrees in the Islamic world, ranging from outright illegal in Saudi Arabia to being openly celebrated in some of the Gulf States and the Far East. A natural question is, just where does Islam diverge from Christianity on the matter of Jesus’ AS1 crucifixion and resurrection? The Qur’an says,

[4:157] That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not

 [4:158] Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise

 [4:159] And there is none of the People of the Book but must believe in him before his death; and on the Day of Judgment he will be a witness against them

Here, the Qur’an states clearly that Jesus AS was not killed nor crucified, but was indeed raised to Heaven. Therefore, Easter has no direct analogue in Islam since it is the celebration of his resurrection. However, as the third verse above explains, Jesus will also play a role on Judgement Day.

There is of course some historical evidence that supports the crucifixion as a recorded event, including from some Roman sources. And the verse in the Qur’an itself says quite expplicitly that “so it was made to appear to them”. So it seems plausible that someone was crucified, unless it was all a divine illusion. One of the mainstream views among muslim theologians is that another was crucified in Jesus’ AS place; either as punishment (likely Judas) or as a willing martyr (often cited as Simon). There are also various minority views, in which Jesus AS did die or achieved separation of spirit from his body. The Wikipedia article “Islamic views of Jesus’ death” provides a comprehensive overview of the various interpretations.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BELIEF.NET

Gifts at Easter are latest bridge between Sacramento-area Muslims and Christians

Good-Friday-Bonds-UK-Muslims-Christians_To honor their Christian friends at Easter – a celebration of renewal – Muslim leaders in Sacramento will deliver 300 gifts at noon today to the First Covenant Church in Rancho Cordova.

Gifts for the children of the 2,000-member evangelical church are part of an interfaith exchange that Pastor Mark Shetler and Irfan Haq of the SALAM Islamic Center started in 2012. The gifts represent “a gesture of good will and a show of love and respect for our Christian brothers and sisters,” said Haq, president of the Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations. “This is possibly the first such gesture taking place in U.S. religious history.”

First Covenant made some history of its own in 2012 and 2013, when about 60 congregants served iftar dinners for hundreds of Muslims during the month of Ramadan, Shetler said. Throughout Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, breaking the fast with an iftar meal after sundown.

FULL ARTICLE FROM MERCED SUN-STAR

 

Christian Church Opens its Doors to Muslims

_66643923_muslims_in_churchThe familiar sounds of Christian hymns have been replaced with Islamic prayer in the chapel this Friday lunchtime and the church priest with the imam from the neighbouring mosque.

Muslims from the Syed Shah Mustafa Jame Masjid mosque next door share this church with Christian worshippers up to five times a day.

Church leaders believe this may be the only place in the country where Christian and Muslim worshippers pray side by side.

The rector at St John’s has opened his doors to Muslims because there was not enough space for them to pray in their own mosque and many were forced to worship outside on the street.

The Reverend Isaac Poobalan, who grew up in Southern India surrounded by Islam, said he would not have been true to his faith if he did not help his neighbours.

“It was a very cold day, like today, and when I walked past the mosque I saw dozens of male worshipers praying outside, on the streets, right near the church.

”Their hands and feet were bare and you could see their breath in the freezing cold.

”Jesus taught his disciples to love your neighbour as yourself and this is something I cannot just preach to my congregation, I had to put it into practice.”

Reverend Poobalan adds: ”I felt very distressed when I saw my neighbours praying out in the cold and I knew I needed to do something to help.”

”I know I cannot solve the world’s problems, but when there is a problem I can solve, I will.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE BBC NEWS 

Is the Lenten Season Awkward for Muslims? Not at Georgetown University

2013-02-08-GeorgetownHealyHallI’ve often heard that the Lenten Season is the most awkward time between Christians and Muslims. This is probably because the end of Jesus’s (PBUH) story is one of the major differences between our two religions. In Islam, Jesus ascended directly into Heaven and was not killed while the Romans crucified another man who was “made by Allah to appear like Jesus” (Quran 4:157-158). For many Muslims, engaging with Christians around the time of Easter is especially challenging because the Christian belief in Jesus’s crucifixion is central and frames much of Christian identity.

However, since Muslims and Christians often find common ground in Jesus’ teachings, I believe that a holy period focused on Jesus provides opportunities to reinforce the commonalities between our faiths. Indeed, attending Georgetown University showed me the enormous potential for interfaith dialogue about common values during the Lenten season.

Georgetown is a Jesuit-Catholic institution, but the university greatly supports other chaplaincies and actively encourages other religious groups to host their own events during the Lenten season. For example, virtually all chaplaincies (and even some secular organizations) host spring retreats which emphasize personal reflection and spiritual growth. Retreats are part of the university’s Ignatian heritage, but people of all faiths (and non-faith, as well) are invited to engage with the Jesuit value of Contemplation in Action. Also, Georgetown hosts a large number of community service and interfaith events designed to bring the campus together around Jesuit values ofWomen and Men for others and Community in Diversity. Although these principles are officially part of Jesuit spirituality, I have found many similarities between them and my personal values as a Muslim. Through Georgetown’s many forums for inter-religious dialogue, I have grown stronger in my own faith.