Daily Readings

Readings for this week July 16 – 20

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Daily Reading General Image

Day 1 – Christianity and Islam

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Ephesians 2:8-9

Throughout history, Christianity and Islam have had an up and down relationship – or to be more precise, many Christians and Muslims have at times had a strained relationship with each other. Whether we look at the two from a theological viewpoint, or from the standpoint of politics, or from the cultural interaction that has occurred between the two, it would be a gross understatement to say that things have not always gone smoothly. This has been especially true – or at least, has been significantly reinforced – in recent times, both at the level of events and perception.

But we must remember that there are many types of Muslims just as there are many types of Christians. Many of us would be horrified if society viewed all Christians through the lens of the beliefs and actions of a group like the Ku Klux Klan, or took a self-proclaimed Messianic cult as being representative of Christianity. Likewise, there are many Muslim groups whose actions and beliefs are abhorrent to mainstream Islam, a source of great embarrassment to those seeking to faithfully follow God.

Christianity and Islam each have more than one billion adherents, and both faiths are growing in numbers all the time. With that many people involved, it is safe to say there will be no peace on earth without dialogue, conversation, mutual respect, and understanding between these two faiths. Wilful ignorance and second-hand hatred are the default setting of far too many people on both sides.

Question to Consider

How are Muslims a part of your life? What is your view of Islam? How does it influence/impact your life?

Prayer

Lord God, I pray for peace and understanding between all people who seek to worship and honour you. May our love mirror yours. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – “The Lord our God, the Lord is One”

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Monotheism is the belief that there is only one God. In the ancient Middle East, monotheism was what set the Israelites apart from the nations that surrounded them. Where other nations believed in a pantheon of Gods, who often fought and competed with each other for people’s allegiance, the Israelites (eventually) worshipped only one God, the only true God, to the exclusion of all others.

This worship of the one true God is encapsulated in what is known as the Shema Yisrael (Hear, O Israel) which are the first two words of a section of the Torah that serves as the most famous Jewish prayer.  Observant Jews see its recitation twice each day as a commandment. Tradition encourages Jews to teach their children to recite the Shema each night before bed, and also, where possible, for the Shema to be a Jew’s last words before death. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he put the Shema at the centre of his answer (see Matthew 22:37).

The first part of the Shema illustrates the monotheism that is at the heart of all three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam: “The Lord our God, the Lord is One.” Although all three faiths have slightly different understandings of who this God is and how he relates to the world and its people, all three believe in one God, and only one God, who is the creator and ruler of all that is.

Question to Consider

How can monotheism be used as a productive, peaceful link between the three Abrahamic faiths? What does this mean about each faith?

Prayer

God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, may understanding between all your children grow and flourish in the days ahead. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – A Revised Shema

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Corinthians 8:5-6

Paul has done something extraordinary here. He has taken the Shema, the central Jewish declarative prayer about the oneness of God and Israel’s loyalty to Him and Him alone, and he has placed Jesus at the centre of it. He has restated the Shema with Jesus – more specifically, though spelled out elsewhere rather than here, the crucified Jesus – at the very heart of it.

“What Paul has done […] is to separate out theos and kyrios, ‘God’ and ‘lord’, in the original prayer, adding brief explanations: ‘God’ is glossed with ‘the father’, with the further phrase about God as source and goal of everything, ourselves included, and ‘lord’ is glossed with ‘Jesus Messiah’, with the further phrase about Jesus as the means of everything, the one through whom all was made, ourselves included. ‘One God (the father), One lord (Jesus Messiah).  A small step for the language; a giant leap for the theology. Jesus is not a ‘second God’: that would abrogate monotheism entirely. He is not a semi-divine intermediate figure. He is the one in whom the identity of Israel’s God is revealed, so that one cannot now speak of this God without thinking of Jesus, or of Jesus without thinking of the One God, the creator, Israel’s God.” (N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, p.666.)

To pray the Shema was to declare loyalty to the One God, to proclaim yourself a citizen of God’s kingdom, and to sign on as one committed to working for his goals on earth. It was a sign of allegiance to the God who had revealed himself through the miraculous workings of the Exodus. So to now put Jesus at the heart of this prayer of loyalty and allegiance was a big statement about who that God really was and what it meant to follow him.

Question to Consider

How does Jesus reveal God? Why is this controversial for so many others?

Prayer

Almighty Father, thank you again for your son, and your willingness to walk among us as one of us, so that we may know you in a deeper, more transforming way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Theological Differences

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 10:34-35

Leaving aside the (nevertheless important) historical issues, central theological differences between Christianity and Islam revolve around the nature of God, and the persons of Jesus and Mohammed. Although both faiths claim to be monotheistic, the Christian claim that God is a Trinity of persons (Father, Son and Spirit) is seen by Muslims as a direct contradiction of monotheism. How can God be three when he is One?

This brings us to Jesus (Isa in the Qur’an). For Christians, Jesus is divine, God incarnate, God in the flesh. For Muslims, while Jesus is a revered prophet, miracle worker, teacher and Messiah (he is the most mentioned person by reference in the Qur’an), he is not divine; he was not crucified, but was rescued by God and raised alive to heaven. If God is One, if only God is God and nothing but God is God, then how can Jesus be God?

And then there is the prophet Muhammad, seen by Muslims as God’s messenger, sent to a society that had fallen away from belief in the true God to remind them of the monotheistic teachings of those who had come before: Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and others. Muslims do not see Muhammad as divine; he is a man, the final prophet, the culmination of all the prophets that God had sent previously. Most Christians, on the other hand, see no need for Muhammad or his message: if Jesus is God, the unsurpassable expression of God’s love, what possible point could there be for God to send another messenger afterwards?

Question to Consider

How are we to address these differences between us?

Prayer

Loving Father, help us be honest with our differences, but respectful and open in our search for truth and for you, even when we disagree. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – The Same God

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – John 3:16

Below are some points to ponder and prayer about, on an answer to the question “do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?” Spend time thinking and praying about your thoughts on/reactions to these points.

“1. Christians and Muslims worship one and the same God, the only God. They understand God’s character partly differently, but the object of their worship is the same. I reject the idea that Muslims worship a different God than do Jews and Christians.

2. What the Qur’an denied about God as the Holy Trinity has been denied by every great teacher of the church in the past and ought to be denied by every orthodox Christian today. I reject the idea that Muslim monotheism is incompatible with the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.

3. Both Muslims and Christians, in their normative traditions, describe God as loving and just, even if there are differences in how they understand God’s love and justice. I reject the idea that the God of the Qur’an stands as a fierce and violent deity in opposition to the God of Jesus Christ, who is sheer love.

4. The God Muslims worship and the God Christians worship – the one and only God – commands that we love our neighbours, even though it is true that the meaning of love of neighbour differs partly in Christianity and Islam. I reject the idea that Islam is a religion of life-constricting laws, whereas Christianity is a religion of life-affirming love.

5. Because they worship the same and similarly understood God, Christians and Muslims have a sufficiently robust moral framework to pursue the common good together. I reject the idea that Muslim and Christian “civilisation” are bound to clash.”

From Miroslav Volf, Allah: A Christian Response, pp.14-15.

Prayer

Lord God, make me an agent of your peace and your love. Help me sow love and understanding in all I meet, whether they know you or not. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)