The Open Door

I belong to an Episcopal Church in my neighborhood. I am invigorated by the services, educated by our Adult Forum programs and strengthened – in all respects – by just being there.

Our Church is like others – in shape, liturgy and message. But there is one thing that sets this Church apart. The doors of the Church are never locked.  They are open. 24/7.

Members of the Church can stop in.  Folks – who are not members – can stop in as well. At ten at night. Or three in the morning. Everyone is welcome.  To pray.  To think.   To ponder.  Donna and I will sometimes stop in.  In those off hours when we’ve gone in, the sanctuary is usually empty.  Except for us. Which makes our visit more personal.

I like to think that the doors of all faith traditions are open to the public. And yet I am aware that is not the case. I remember one pastor – years ago – haughtily suggesting that unless I was of his faith, his denomination and his synod — the doors to my salvation might well be closed. That’s tough to stomach.  I wonder what Gabriel would have to say about that (see post of January 30, 2012).  I bet his doors are open.  24/7  . . . . .  

Jesus in Islam

When the angel said: O Marium, surely Allah gives you good news with a Word from Him whose name is the Messiah, Isa son of Marium, worthy of regard in this world and the hereafter and of those who are made near to Allah. The Koran – Surra 3:45

His name is Isa Ibn Marium.  He was born of a virgin – Marium – who gave birth to Isa by the miraculous will of God.  It is believed by many Muslims that Isa – Jesus – is a Messenger of God who was sent to guide the Children of Israel with the Holy Gospel.  Jesus is referenced in the Koran as being al-Masih (“The Messiah”).  Most Muslims accept that Jesus will return on the Day of Judgment to restore justice and to defeat the Antichrist (al-Masih ad-Dajjal). 

I have written about religion in earlier posts.  I’ve discussed my journey through the Old and New Testaments.  And I have not been shy about discussing Islam (see 1/30/12; 3/26/12; 8/23/12; and 9/6/13).  Frankly, Islam, Christianity and Judaism have more in common than they do difference. But try telling that to the extremists.  Many it seems – especially Muslims at this juncture in history – seem to believe that they alone have the ear of God.   And among Muslims, the 72 (or 73) different sects vilify one other.  And they vilify Christians and Jews despite our Abrahamic origins – and being Ahl al-Kitab.  But I digress.

The story of Jesus has recurring reference in the Koran.  Mary – his mother – is the only woman mentioned in the Koran.  I’m a good Episcopalian but I read the Koran and other religious texts given that the topic is so fascinating (and historically relevant).  Frankly, religion is a topic more people ought study.  And understand.  Yet among Muslims, regrettably a majority cannot read.  S0 many get their information from imams, madrassahs and politicians.  Who often have a political agenda.  And you know what happens then. . . .   Witness the fires that burn across the Middle East.  Nevertheless, I find it easier to discuss religion with Pakistani cab drivers (see post of 8/19/12) than I do politics with those who are misguided on the subject.    

 

Gabriel

There are three archangels in religious tradition:  Michael, Raphael and Gabriel.  Of the three, Gabriel is the one who curiously keeps popping up — not just in Christianity but in other faiths as well.   Gabriel is a messenger from God.  An uber messenger. . . . .

In the Jewish tradition, Gabriel was a holy messenger who in the Old Testament book of Daniel offers an explanation of Daniel’s visions.  In Christianity, it is Gabriel who foretells the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus.   It was Gabriel who visits Mary to deliver the good news of her new role. 

In the Mormon faith, Gabriel in his earthly life was Noah.  Some say, Gabriel continues to be a divine messenger having visited earth as recently as 1954.

In Islam, it was Gabriel (Jibril) who revealed the Qur’an to Muhammed.   And in the Bahai faith, Gabriel is referenced in their holy texts (“Baha’u’llah’s mystical work Seven Valleys).  

With Gabriel’s positive and influential involvement in so many religious traditions, one has to wonder why religious strife focuses so much on differences.  Perhaps Gabriel, the Messenger, is trying to tell us something. . . . .