The Spirit Calendar
A Weekly Devotional from the Connecticut Conference United Church of Christ
March 20, 2017
This week's author is Drew Page, News and Media Editor for Connecticut Conference.
Scripture: John 9:1-12 (NRSV)
As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, ‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some were saying, ‘It is he.’ Others were saying, ‘No, but it is someone like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I am the man.’ But they kept asking him, ‘Then how were your eyes opened?’ He answered, ‘The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash.” Then I went and washed and received my sight.’ They said to him, ‘Where is he?’ He said, ‘I do not know.’
When I read this passage, I was surprised by the judgmental assumption of the disciples toward the blind man. After all the time they had spent with Jesus, how could they still believe that someone seen as the "other" must have done something wrong?
I recently attended some interfaith meetings intended to teach more about non-Christian religions, to bring us into conversation with those we might call "other." One of these meetings covered the principals of Islam.
While listening to a panel of 6 Muslims explain their faith to a room full of mostly Christians, I was surprised by a very sudden and tangible release of tension in my shoulders. One of the speakers, Islam Mosa, a graduate student at UConn, was quoting the Quran and explaining what the passages meant. He had previously looked up similar passages in the Christian bible in order to show the commonality between the two faiths.
Mosa said it was Quranic tradition to find commonalities in people. After sharing a verse in Arabic, Islam translated the meaning of the words: "Come to common terms between us and you."
At this moment, I felt the first release in my neck and shoulders. There were several others: when Islam shared how the Quran teaches admiration of Jesus' mother Mary – it even has an entire chapter devoted to Mary; when Ali shared the history of the spread of Islam that sounded so much like the spread of Christianity; when Rahmet shared her reasons for wearing a hijab and how misunderstood women's roles are by non-Muslims (and another moment of surprise when Ali pointed out that several Muslim-majority nations have had women as their highest political leaders – something the United States has yet to accomplish).
My surprise came because I didn't recognize the tension was there. Where had this tension come from? I had entered the meeting believing that this conversation would be helpful to others, not me — I certainly didn't need it. I had already done some of my own research about Islam. Before this event took place, I already thought Muslims and Christians believed in the same God and believed that we followed slightly different paths to the same goal. So where was this tension coming from? And why would learning more about our similarities make this tension go away?
I still don't know. But I know that it left, and I know that I needed that conversation.
As these 6 individuals described the principals of their faith, shared the messages of the Quran, and explained how Islamic faith and Islamic politics don't always seem to mesh, I felt like I was sitting with people who were more than just similar to me; they were — are — the same as me. They are people who believe that God made us all and has a purpose for us all, that our actions in this world matter, that an ancient text can be relevant today and guide those actions, and that seeing people as the same is so much better that seeing them as "other."
Holy Creator, thank you for variety. The differences that you created by design make this world intriguing and beautiful. But sometimes, we don't see them this way. Help us to recognize that all Creation is by your design, that all people are made in your image, and that no matter how different we seem, we are all yours and, therefore, we are all the same.
Special Prayer Requests:
- The people of Peru where intense rains are causing flooding and mudslides which have left at least 72 dead and many more isolated and homeless;
- Rev. Sara Smith, Senior Pastor of United Congregational Church of Bridgeport, who is recovering from an injury; and
- The members and staff of United Congregational Church of Bridgeport, who are preparing to move from their building to a new location.
- The families and friends of more than 30 Guatemalan girls who died or were injured in a fire at the Virgin of the Assumption Safe House in San Jose Pinula, Guatemala on Feb. 8.;
- those grieving in Ethiopia after a landslide killed at least 50 people and injured dozens more on Mar. 11;
- the family and friends of Cheryl Polydor, friend of Michael and Diane Ciba, who died on Feb 21;
- Mark Engstrom, member of the CT Conference Board of Directors, and his wife Nina, who are facing health issues;
- the community of Conway, MA, and the United Congregational Church, UCC, Conway after a tornado touched down on Feb. 25 causing significant structural damage;
- the people of New Orleans, after a driver ran into a crowd of parade viewers, injurer over 20 people on Feb. 25;
- he people of South Sudan where nearly 1 million people are facing famine;
- the people of Pakistan where more than 100 people have been killed in militant attacks in the past week;
- Richard "Ned" Bunell, member of First Congregational Church of Canton Center, who was hospitalized for an illness and is now recovering;
- the people of southern Louisiana, after tornadoes struck the area on Feb. 7;
- those residents around Lake Oroville, CA, who were evacuated for safety reasons after authorities found erosion at the Oroville Dam on Feb. 7 causing concerns of partial failure of a spillway;
- John Polglase, husband of the Rev. Betsey Polglase, Pastor of the Columbia Congregational Church UCC, who has chronic pulmonary disease;
- the Rev. Micki Nunn-Miller, who had knee surgery on Jan. 17;
- Debi Mastroni Kenyon, Director of Faith Formation at Monroe Congregational Church, who had surgery on Jan. 18;
- the members and staff of Thompson Congregational Church after a fire severely damage the building on Dec. 29;
- Michael White, former Operations Manager at Silver Lake Conference Center, who was diagnosed with colon cancer;
- Juliane Silver, the daughter of the Rev. Jim Silver of Middletown, who is in dire need of a liver transplant. We pray that a donor will come forward giving the gift of life and a portion of their liver to Juliane;
- Chacy Eveland, husband of the Rev. Marcia Eveland, pastor of the First Congregational Church UCC of Ansonia, who has been moved to a full-time facility for care of dementia;
- the thousands of migrants worldwide who flee from violence and persecution in search of safety;
- our ecumenical partners in the Kyung-Ki Presbytery in South Korea;
- the Conference's partners working for peace in Colombia amidst violence;
- the leaders of this nation, that they may meet the challenges of the day with insight, wisdom, and compassion;
- this nation, that it may continue its difficult work to end the practices of racism;
- those suffering due to the ongoing financial woes of the nation, be they struggling to meet an unaffordable mortgage, seeking employment, or working to find just resolutions; and
- those serving or living in war or conflict zones around the world, or where terrorists have struck.
To be added to the prayer list, please send an email to Drew Page at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
Congregational Church of Easton Inc UCC
Amanda Ostrove - SU
Ellington Congregational Church UCC
Donald R. Bailey-Francois - SP
Karen L. Bailey-Francois - AP
Lisa Crocker - CE
Esther Pezzella - MM
Enfield Congregational Church UCC
Steven Alspach - IN
The First Congregational Church of Essex, UCC
Kenneth D. Peterkin - P
First Church Congregational, UCC
David W. Spollett - P
Daniel B. England - DT
Vanessa Payne Rose - AP
The Spirit Calendar:
March 20, 2017