The Hajj and Eid al-Adha – Islam’s search for a lamb continues

As I write these words, Muslims have just completed the Hajj, their annual pilgrimage to Mecca. The Hajj occurs during the twelfth and final month of the Muslim lunar calendar, the month, Dhu al-Hijjah. Over 2 million pilgrims from all over the world (down from last year’s 3.1 mill due to the threat of the MERS virus ) congregate at Mecca to worship at the Kaaba, Islam’s black-cubed structure located in the center of the Grand Mosque, Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The annual gathering this year was on the 13th- 18th days of Dhu al-Hijjah (October, this year). The pilgrims encircled the Kaaba seven times, counter-clockwise (called “circumambulation”), in imitation of angels encircling the heavenly throne of Allah.  On the seventh time, the pilgrims caress or kiss the Black Stone, a meteor-like object, located in the eastern corner of the Kaaba (Muslims believe the ancient stone was brought to Abraham by the Angel Gabriel while constructing the Kaaba with Ishmael).1 Upon contact with the Black Stone, pilgrims believe it somehow absorbs their sins.  According to tradition, the stone was originally white but turned black after absorbing the sins of the many pilgrims who have touched it.2 The ritual is completed with a salute to the stone demonstrating renewal of covenant with Allah.

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  1. “Kaaba.” In The Islamic World: Past and Present., edited by John L. Esposito. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t243/e179. []
  2. Ibid. []

When an Empty Chair Speaks

The Pope is missing from the chair of adulation. Change is coming for the Catholic Church

The Pope is missing from the chair of adulation. Change is coming for the Catholic Church

Luke 14:10-11 (NASB) 10 “But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. 11  ”For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be
exalted.”

Humility is a good thing to the Lord. The Scripture leaves us little question about that.  1 Peter 5:5 (NASB) ”… clothe yourselves with humility toward one another for God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Check the papal-chair in the above picture. Does it look like a chair for the humble or the proud? A chair for someone who “clothes [himself] with humility” or a chair for the exalted and lifted up?  It is the Pope’s chair — and, it is empty!

This past week, Pope Francis was a no-show at a gala event where he was the guest of honor. The event was scheduled prior to his election in March, and was attended by the rich and famous, except in this case, they happened to be cardinals and Italian dignitaries.

“It took us by surprise,” said one Vatican source on Monday.  “We are still in a period of growing pains. He is still learning  how to be pope and we are still learning how he wants to do it.” The article continued, “The prelates, assured that health was not the reason for the no-show, looked disoriented, realising that the message he  wanted to send was that, with the Church in crisis, he – and  perhaps they – had too much pastoral work to do to attend social  events.”

The day before the concert, Francis said bishops should be  “close to the people” and not have “the mentality of a prince.”  Imagine the adjustment that is going on at the Vatican. One source reports, “Since his election on March 13, Francis, the former cardinal  Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, has not spent a single night in  the opulent and spacious papal apartments. He has preferred to live in a small suite in a busy Vatican guest house, where he takes most meals in a communal dining room  and says Mass every morning in the house chapel rather than the  private papal chapel in the Apostolic Palace.

Does that sound like the Catholic Church that you know? Absent of the pomp and ”vestments“ intended to ”excite the viewer into good thoughts and to increase devotion in those who see and those who use them”?  Doesnt sound like Pope Francis got the memo on how to “increase devotion” by the outfit he wears or the chair he sits in. Another interesting item was the report that Pope Francis had performed an impromptu exorcism as he exited a bishop’s conference. In the report, a ”man who appears to be a priest leans forward and explains something to the pope, at which point Pope Francis places both of his hands on the man’s head. The man soon appears to become agitated, breaths heavily, twitches slightly and sinks a bit lower in his wheelchair.”

And what is my point? When Pope Francis models the humility of our Lord, in direct contrast to that demonstrated by his predecessors, the Church and the world should take notice. It is not the vestments or the papal-chair that we should take notice of — but the absence thereof. In Francis’ refusal to be exalted on the human plane, it seems that the message he is seeking to deliver to his leaders is not only being communicated with his words, but also by his actions. If our Lord entered Jerusalem seated on a donkey, what is it that makes leadership in the church, Catholic or otherwise, think that we should be seated on anything higher or more elevated? Was it not our Lord that said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself”? John 12:32 (NASB).

Christ wasn’t talking about a papal chair to lift him up, but His atoning work on the cross. Perhaps the empty chair was Pope Francis’ way to encourage the leadership of the Church to carry their own cross, and thereby speak volumes about what it really means to “increase devotion” among the followers of our Lord.

Jesus come quickly.

Blessings.

Jack

 

The Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection – Is there anything else Islam can deny about Jesus?

I recently came across this website (www.ilovemuhammad.com) as I was doing a web search on the Muslim views of Jesus (see http://ilovemuhammed.com/questions/86-what-does-islam-say-about-jesus-pbuh).  The highlights of my entry page were intriguing:

What do Muslims believe about Jesus [pbuh]?

Answer: Muslims revere, respect, and love Jesus. … No Muslim can be a Muslim if he/she rejects Jesus, it is a fundamental of faith for the Muslim to believe in Jesus,…  The Quran tells us a lot about Jesus, who he was, his miracles, and his mission.

How can a site named “ilovemuhammad,” state, “No Muslim can be a Muslim if he/she rejects Jesus, it is a fundamental of faith for the Muslim to believe in Jesus”?  It is one thing for a Muslim to state that “Jesus is only a prophet [and not the Son of God],” and quite another to state, ”No Muslim can be a Muslim if he/she rejects Jesus…”

As I reflect on what I call the ”dressed-down” version of Jesus that Islam has concocted, the above statement seemed to make sense after all. In a future post, I will discuss Muslim eschatology regarding the return of Jesus. Islamic end-time prophecy includes the descent of Jesus from heaven, along with his declaration that Islam is the one, true, religion, and Christianity is a fabrication by Jesus’ left-behind, over-zealous disciples!  But that topic will have to await another post; for now, we will look at Islam’s “dressed down” version of the crucified, risen, Lord Jesus.

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