I was just reading Brad Drell’s blog about the Episcopal priest who now claims, and I have to admit this is hearsay, that she is both Christian and Muslim. An Episcopal priest who is also a practicing Muslim.
A few of the comments pertaining to this particular post are worth mentioning. As someone alluded to, this whole mess we find ourselves is really about who we say Jesus is. Last Sunday’s Gospel lesson recounted Jesus asking his disciples, “Who do the people say that I am?” and then, “Who do YOU say that I am.” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God!” Funny thing, Jesus told them not to tell anyone.
I do believe that so many of the issues we are dealing with today do revolve around the question of who Jesus is! If Jesus is simply one of many prophets of God, even if a special one, even though not the same kind of one as Muhammad, then being a Muslim and Christian is not all that outlandish. Of course, most Muslims would completely reject the idea because most believe we worship three gods, among numerous other differences between the two religions – perceived or otherwise.
Likewise, the whole issue of “Open Communion” – allowing anyone to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord whether they are baptized or not or even a believer or not or whether they are in the midst of notorious sin or not – pertains to who Jesus is and what actually goes on during the mass. If one believes that the Eucharistic celebration and the receiving of the elements is simply a ritual of remembrance, in the Protestant fashion, rather than truly a Sacrament, in the Catholic fashion, then what difference does it make whether anyone takes communion or not or why they do? If Jesus is not honestly present, by faith, in some way, then they are just pieces of bread and a bit of wine or grape juice. Who do we say Jesus is and what do we say goes on within the liturgies of the Church and its sacraments?
I was reading the final letter to the parish by the interim priest of my sponsoring parish in Ohio. There has been a bit of controversy, it seems, with this interim because he introduced for the experience practices that were consider “Popish” by many in the decidedly low-church parish. In his letter, he commented on reasons and realities of church growth,
“The fourth reason seems new to us, but it really isnâ€™t: a growing number of people are now â€œchurch shoppingâ€ and they are rarely looking for a church which will challenge them with the Gospel; theyâ€™re looking for a church which will affirm their current beliefs and values. And they usually find these two positions incompatible. (This phenomenon is also true in the secular world. Perhaps, youâ€™ve seen recent studies about the growing number of people who, when seeking a new home for their retirement, are looking not just for better weather, but for a community or state where their views, values and politics are in the majority â€” perhaps, for the first time in their lives.)”
There are, I think, too many people who do not what to be asked the question, “Who do you say that I am?” They don’t want to be challenged that their particular belief or their ignorance may be wrong. It is far easier and far less messy and not at all as costly to believe in a new guru Jesus, rather than the eternally existent, resurrected and ascended Son of God through whom we have access to reconciliation with God, one another, and all of God’s creation.
Another commenter added this quote from St. Basil as an explanation for why she rarely involves herself in all this wrangling:
â€œThe love of many has grown cold; concord among brothers is no more; the very name of unity is ignored; Christian compassion or sympathetic tears cannot be found anywhere. There is no one to welcome someone weak in faith, but mutual hatred blazes so fiercely among brothers that a neighborsâ€™ fall brings them more joy than their own householdâ€™s success. And just as a contagious disease spreads from the sick to the healthy during an epidemic, in these days we have become like everyone else: imitators of evil, carried away by this wicked rivalry possessing our souls. Those who judge the erring are merciless and bitter, while those judging the upright are unfair and hostile. This evil is so firmly rooted in us that we have become more brutish than the beasts: At least they herd together with their own kindred, but we reserve our most savage warfare for the members of our own household.â€
A timely quote, don’t you think?