Faith to Faith: Relating to People of other Faiths from a Christian Perspective part 1

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Faith to Faith: Relating to People of other Faiths from a Christian Perspective part 1
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Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

The Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes is the Minister of Maple Grove United Church, and is a member of the Interfaith Councill of Halton. A chatty extrovert with a conversational preaching style, a multi-tasker who is a “multi-worrier” when it comes to caring about people’s problems, and a leader who treasures teaming with the lay people in her church, Morar says that at Maple Grove she has experienced “a deeper level of ministry than I thought possible.” Anyone who has personally received Morar’s deeply compassionate caring and wise counsel will testify to what an inspirational, healing and encouraging ministry it is.

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One of our members recently expressed discomfort with her friend’s comments about people of the Muslim faith. Another attended a prayer group in a church where the leader started by complaining about the number of Muslims in Milton. And, if we are honest, we may need to confess that differences that we hear about scare us. We may feel the need to shore up our own faith.

Often it is assumed that relating to another faith group weakens one’s own faith: the image of a fortress comes to mind — strong because our defences are strong — any contact from outside will attack our faith.

We fear that others will overpower us, that other faith groups will annihilate us. And we enter dangerous waters.

  1. Out of that fear, we may find ways to use our own faith as a weapon.
  2. We may misinterpret scripture and act in a hostile manner as a result. — e.g. to persecute Jews because ‘they killed Jesus.’ We learned in a most horrible way the consequences of that fortress mentality in the Holocaust. But then we asked our biblical scholars to teach us about the scripture -the context of the time, history, and what was the essence of Jesus’ message and what might have been misinterpreted over the years, and we discovered that we could read the Bible and interpret the Bible without persecuting the very people whom Jesus came from. We learned how rooted Jesus was in his own Jewishness.
  3. Or we may worry that when we relate to people of other faiths, we water down our faith to make it more palatable for others.

I’d like to argue that neither using faith as a weapon, nor misinterpreting scripture out of fear, nor watering down faith is necessary in order to stay strong when we encounter folk of a different faith.

The message this week is about looking inward to who we are as Christians and next week’s will be about looking outward, relating to people of other faiths, with a special emphasis upon how we can relate to people of the Muslim faith.

This week, we look at the very nature of God for Christians. What is the God we may be called to share with people of other faiths without using God as a weapon, misunderstanding God, or watering down our faith?

What do we know about God? Perhaps by seeing all the ways that John in his Gospel described God, we might be able to see God’s story played out in our own lives. (All references are from the Gospel of John and can be searched at bible.oremus.org)

GOD LOVES

  • God loves the Son (3.35, 5.20)
  • God loves those who love Jesus (14.21,23; 16.27)
  • God is loved by Jesus (14.31)
  • God is honoured by Jesus (8.49)
  • God will honour any who serve Jesus (12.26)

GOD TRUSTS

  • God has placed all things into Jesus’ hand (3.35)
  • God has placed a seal on Jesus (6.27)
  • God entrusts all to Jesus (10.29, 13.3, 16.15, 17.7,10)
  • God judges no one, but entrusts judgment to Jesus (5.22)
  • God gives Jesus work to do (5.36)
  • God shows Jesus all that God is doing (5.20)

GOD IS WORSHIPPED

  • God is worshipped in spirit and truth and seeks folk to worship God (4.23)
  • Jesus prays to God (17.1-22)

JESUS POINTS US TO GOD

  • God works just as Jesus is working (5.17)
  • God is imitated by Jesus (5.19)
  • God is in Jesus and Jesus is in God (10.38, 14.10-11,20.17-21)

GOD TAUGHT JESUS and JESUS TEACHES US ABOUT GOD

  • God has taught and shown Jesus what he talks about (8.28, 38)
  • God is not known by the world (16.3,17.25)
  • God is known and made known by Jesus (17.25-26,10.15, 17.25-26)
  • God gives God’s commandment to Jesus to speak (10.18, 12.49- 50, 14.31)
  • God is heard from and learned from (6.45)
  • God is spoken of by Jesus (8.27,16.25)

GOD GIVES US JESUS, WHO LIVES, SUFFERS, DIES, AND IS RAISED FROM THE DEAD

  • God gives the true bread from heaven (6.32)
  • God gives a “cup” of suffering for Jesus to drink (18.11)
  • God raises the dead and gives us eternal life (something to receive, not something that relies on us believing in it.)(as does Jesus) (5.21)

GOD IS ONE WITH JESUS

  • God has life in God’s self and has given Jesus Life and authority and judgment (5.26-7)
  • God is one with Jesus ((10.30, 17.21)
  • God is reached through Jesus (14.6)
  • God is seen by those who see Jesus (14.9)
  • God is with Jesus (16.32)

GOD KEEPS ON WITH US

  • God sends the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) (14.16,26 — as does Jesus — 15.26, 16.8)
  • God draws/enables all who come to Jesus (6.44, 65)
  • God prunes ‘branches’ to make them more fruitful (15.1)
  • God keeps believers in the world (17.15),
  • God gives what is asked in Jesus’ name (16.23)
  • (adapted from Anderson, Paul N., “The Having-Sent-Me Father: Aspects of Agency, Encounter, and Irony in the Johannine Father-Son Relationship,” Semeia, 1999)

Give God the Glory!
“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you” (17.1)

“All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.” (John 17.10)

“The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one.” (John 17.22)

The word ‘glory’ is mentioned fifteen times in the Gospel of John, yet we don’t use it much in our own descriptions of God.

The Hebrew word for “glory” is ‘Kabod’; it basically means weight. I like that – it’s not ethereal like honour, magnificence, beauty, words you find in the dictionary for glory. No, this ‘glory’ is the weight of God, the force of God.

It is God’s weight, God’s glory that gives our faith weight — like those old fashioned toys — weighted yet inflated — When you punch it, it pops back up — who God is will ‘weight’ us in faith, so we will be resilient in all situations.

When we are weighted in faith by God, when we are able to give God glory — especially in prayer and worship, when we are able to spend our lives getting along with other Christians in God’s church, when we are ready to live the hard sayings of Jesus about how we are to treat others, we are ready to meet people of other faiths.

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Readers Comments (1)

  1. Morar says:

    This two part series has sparked much conversation. Little did I know, it would be so timely: the week the the National Council of Canadian Muslims sued Prime Minister Harper and his spokesperson for libel for stating that this group had ties to terrorists. Part 2, to be published June 8, will address the challenge of relating to people of the Muslim faith in particular.

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