A Short Talk given at the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno, Californiaon the Festival of Eid, September 10, 2010 the Rev. Dr. Chris Erdman
Thursday, in an article published by the Huffington Post, Muslim journalist, Omid Safi, compared the threatened Qur'an-burning on the high holiday of Eid to the Grinch who stole Christmas. As a servant of Jesus and a representative of the holy catholic or universal church, I apologize that a Grinch has tried to steal your Ramadan peace, your Eid joy. The Rev. Terry Jones isn't the only Grinch who's tried to steal your spiritual joy; there have been others who, with ugly rhetoric, have tried to block the establishment of a prayer center in Manhattan. Sadly, there have been too many Christians among them.
There are people who use the Christian religion for purposes that run counter to the faith of Jesus. They misunderstand Jesus, they misuse his teaching. They are wounded souls who turn the gospel of spiritual liberation into rules and dogma that become weapons and tools for intolerance, hatred, and even violence.
You Muslims are frustrated by the same kind of troublemakers too, aren't you? You know the same kind of wounded souls who turn your religion of humble submission to Allah into weapons and tools for intolerance, hatred, and violence.
So, what are we to do?
We must walk the humble path that weaves its way through the heart of both our religions.
We Christians must surrender ourselves to the way of Jesus---not merely ideas about Jesus---but Jesus' way of life. We must live into the Great Commandment he gave us: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself"---by which he meant, "who is an extension of your very self." To love this way, our hearts must become one with the heart of Jesus.
Love is the path Christians must walk. In the end, love is the only measure by which we shall be judged. Love alone makes us what we were meant to be. Love alone will transform the world. Love alone will heal the world. And so, we must risk everything for love until love is the very air we breathe, the blood that courses through our veins.
Love is not some weak ideal, some squishy, let's-just-hug-everybody emotion. Love is mightier than guns and bombs; love triumphs over governments and grinches.
I've got reason to believe that love is also the path for you as Muslims. I wonder if your spiritual purification this Ramadan is ultimately for the sake of love. Do you seek to love Allah with all your being? Is love the real meaning of Ramadan, the fruit of Eid?
Rabia of Basra is one of the most popular and influential female Islamic saints, a central figure in the Sufi tradition. She was born nearly five hundred years before Rumi, and some say is the poet who most influenced his writings. Rabia describes the path this way:
The sky gave me its heart because it knew mine was not large enough to care for the earth the way did.
. . .
[But] my eye kept telling me, "Something is missing from all I see." So I went in search of the cure. The cure for me was God's beauty, the remedy for me was to love.*
And what do we do with those who don't understand God, who won't dance in Love with us, who can't live and love Love above all?
I'll answer in the words of Teresa of Avila, the most influential female saint in the Christian world. In the sixteenth century, a century full of religious bigotry and intolerance she wrote:
How did those priests ever get so serious and preach all that gloom?
I don't think God tickled them yet.
And so let us join our hearts and commit ourselves to love above all. And when we're troubled by the grinches and the grouches (who may sometimes be our own selves), when we're threatened by those who hate, let us together pray: "Beloved, hurry! Tickle them . . . till they can't frown anymore."