“Had Allah willed, He would have made you one nation, united in religion, but He intended to test you in what He has given you; so race to all that is good.” – Holy Quran 48th verse of chapter 5
Islamic Scholar Scott Alexander shared this verse with us when he was a guest speaker at St. John’s on May 13th. An audience member had commented about his experience sharing worship with Islamic and Jewish communities and observed, “We are more alike in our beliefs than we are different.” Alexander then quoted the Quran verse above – which inspired further discussion. Is it possible to respect each other’s differences and allow each person to follow their own path? And then, how do we “race to all that is good” or as different translations have it, “compete with each other in righteousness” or “vie one with another in good works” ?
Alexander was challenging us to examine our reaction to the concept of “different.” Can we look at real or perceived differences and let go of the need to argue, to alienate, or to force changes? He brought up the idea of language: baby animals are born able to communicate, but, for humans, several years pass before babies can speak the language of their parents and community. That hard-won gift of language unites us as a community and gives us identity, but diversity of language around the world divides us, emphasizing our differences. How can I get to know you and love you if I cannot understand what you are saying? Can I see (and hear) that you are different and open my heart to you?
Inspired by these ideas, we move towards Pentecost Sunday: a celebration of the Holy Spirit, in wind and fire, granting the disciples the ability to pass on God’s message of love without the barrier of language.
So join us this Sunday in a flurry of wind and symbolic flames and sing with gusto in a multitude of languages the beautifully simple song “Dona Nobis Pacem” that translates into a heartfelt “Grant Us Peace.”
And…. don’t forget to wear RED! (We didn’t!)