Passover just ended, it is Eastertide, and Ramadan just started. The three Abrahamic religions celebrate Spring differently, but with similar gratitude and hope. Yet we are divided and sometimes violently so.
Perhaps the biggest issue that keeps the Abrahamic religions divided is their seemingly incompatible answers to the question of the nature of God (that is our unique Theologies).
The post-Exilic priests in Jerusalem who invented monotheism in the first place (Isaiah and Jeremiah), made it clear that we can’t answer the Theological question.
Yahweh/Allah/Deus (aka “the Divine Other”) is and must be transcendent (or else we invent God, and whatever we invent can’t be God).
Jews (still) believe that even giving God a name violates the 2nd Commandment and is Idolatry. Early Christians struggled to defy and oppose Roman Emperor Worship, so imbued Christ with the attributes of the anti-Emperor (God, Son of God). Preaching to a very polytheistic culture, Muhammad and his followers stressed that Allah is One / El La, The One.
Early theological thinkers applied adjectives that we can invent; creative, provident, merciful, wise, graceful, just, omnipotent, omnipresent, and so forth. Be careful, however, because it’s almost impossible not to project your own psychological needs and cultural biases.
Early Christians were Jews. They worshipped One Lord. So how did their Trinity idea (a symbol for unity and relationship) become so divisive?
By the 4th Century, Jesus, rather than representing non-violent resistance to Roman power, had replaced the Caesar at the top of the power pyramid… or just above it with a direct connection to the man at the top. Not long after that, Islam quickly became the state religion of the Caliphate. Both religions were corrupted to justify terrible violence and murder and theft. Jews were cast in the scapegoat role. However they are just as capable of inhumanity when they are in power.
So where does that leave us today?
Are we freed from the Pharoah or still in Exile? Is it still Lent or Easter? Is Muhammad in Mecca or Medina?
Here’s an icon from the Eastern Church (not influenced by Rome) from before Islam existed. It’s a painting of the Three Angels that visited Abraham and Sarah, hospitality, a shared meal a blessing and a promise. It’s a key moment in the history of all three of our religions.
In this icon, one man/angel is wearing Gold (a symbol for The Creator). One of them is wearing Blue (symbol for the suffering Messiah) and one is in Green (symbol for the Spirit/Advocate/Lord of Life). In those three, Sarah saw the One Lord. This icon omits her laughter. What is important in this old icon is the gesture. One (The Spirit) is inviting the viewer to sit at the Table of Blessing and Promise. Originally there was a mirror attached so you could see your own face in it.
Around a table graciously provided with the hospitality to share everything, there is no divide. Yesterday we took Holy Communion. This month, Linn and I will attend a seminar on resisting anti-Semitism. The Seder is over. We will share at least one Iftar meal with Muslim friends. We are not God but are in Relationship with the Divine and each other, there is just One Author of Love. The gesture to sit at the table is real. The empty place is for you.