Meditation: Father Abraham has Many Sons
He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. (Rev 3:5)
Isaac and Ishmael both spawned great nations as was prophesied. Most Christians are well aware that Isaac was blessed by God. Some also know that when Abraham made a request on behalf of Ishmael, God blessed him as well (Genesis 17:20). This week the brothers will celebrate their holy days at the same time. Both holidays Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan are determined by the new moon.
For Isaac's descendents it is the first sighting of the new moon in the seventh month which begins the new spiritual year. In 2006 that date corresponds to the Gregorian calendar date of September 24th. For Ishmael’s descendents it is the first sighting of the new moon in the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar which corresponds to the Gregorian calendar of September 23. The holiday period for each lasts the entire month.For all the rest of us it is the end of summer and the beginning of fall, the time of thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest.
The goodness of God is filling our stomachs and our storage areas. Like the religious holidays it is a time for reflection and vision. It is the time for plowing under dead brittle foliage and waste materials with hopefulness for new life in the future.The feast of trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) is also known as the "Days of Awe". The teaching is that God has a great book in which he writes things down and each year at this time he writes who will live and who will die in this New Year.
During Rosh Hashanah, it is taught that One's actions can alter God’s will. Repentance, prayer and acts of kindness can alter the mind of God. This period of grace ends on Yom Kippur when the book is sealed. The traditional greeting of this time is "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year."Likewise Ramadan is also observed with fasting and prayer for the entire month. The purpose is to limit the distractions of material things and focus on relationships to God and to one another. It is a time dedicated to the peace of God and compassion for humanity.
According to tradition it was during Ramadan that the prophet Mohammad read the Quran for the first time.One of the collective prayers of Rosh Hashanah is as follows: "We will celebrate the solemn holiness of this day, how awesome and fearsome it is. On this day your rulership is lifted up, your throne is established in mercy, and you sit upon it in truth. Truly you alone are judge, arbiter, discerner, witness, recorder, sealer, inscriber and reckoner; and you remember all forgotten deeds. You open the book of records and it reads itself, and everyone's signature is there.
The many prayers each day during Ramadan seek mercy and express desire to be fully surrendered to God (Allah). A poet attempted to capture the meaning and the importance with this verse: “Ramadan is the farm where soul-purifying seeds are sown. So water such seeds by good deeds. Bad deeds will cause you loss.’’
We, the descendents of Adam and Eve, are more alike than we are different. It is the same moon which we see at night and by which we calculate our days. Each of us seeks to be a blessing to our Creator and each of us is aware of our need for mercy. We are all tempted by pride and self-interest and forget to be kind to others.Fall is a time for plowing. Let the spears be beaten into ploughshares at the beginning of this New Year of reconciliation.
May we overcome human tendencies to destroy and instead build up one another. Let us reflect on the God of both Isaac and Ishmael and the common bond of humanity.
Prayer: The great one who ordains the rising and setting of the sun and the waxing and waning of the moon look with mercy and compassion on your creation. Give us understanding and wisdom as we learn how to live at peace with one another and care about the welfare of our neighbor as much as we care about ourselves. Thank you for times and seasons where we can reflect on your abiding love. May swords be remade into ploughshares.
Action: Read more about the Peace of Abraham, Hagar and Sarah at http://www.shalomctr.org/node/1117 and consider some of the suggested activities.Join much of the rest of the world this month by increasing prayer and fasting for the benefit of our neighbors around the globe. Pray for the hearts of our national leaders that they be turned away from destruction.