THE LEGACY OF ABRAHAM
Jews, Muslims, and Christians agree that God is One - Creator of the Universe. We have much in common and on which we agree - and much that we disagree about - and that causes us too often to look at each other with suspicion and mistrust
Abraham - the friend of God - is spiritually the shared ancestor of half the people alive today - Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Abraham is a defining figure - our common patriarch, - a source of inspiration, - and sadly through much of our shared history a source of argument, bloodshed, persecution and suffering.
In the story of Abraham we can find justification for continued suspicion and mistrust, or we can find in Abraham the point of contact, the cornerstone for a new relationship.
Abraham is discussed in the Torah, in the New Testament and in the Qur?an, but the stories often disagree even on basic points - we have what may be seen as competing traditions
The story of Abraham offering his son to God is remembered on Rosh Hoshonah, at Easter and on Id al-Adha - one of the two holiest days of the year for Muslims.
Abraham was one man - but our varied understandings of the man and his story and the fact that each of us has maintained that Abraham is ?ours alone? has led to tragic family fights on a grand scale - over the inheritance of Abraham
The TORAH tells us that Abrahams legacy is that through his descendants God will bless the nations of the world.
The NEW TESTAMENT tells us in John 8:39 that if we were Abraham?s children we would do the works of Abraham
The QUR?AN tells us in chapter 11:118 that if our Lord had so pleased, He would have made humanity one community. And further in 2:147-148 that “The truth is from your Lord, so do not be one of the doubters. Each community has a direction to which it turns, so compete with one another in doing good works. Wherever you may be, God will bring you all together, for God has power over all things.”
We have forgotten the legacy of Abraham - forgotten that to be blessed and to be a blessing we must be like Abraham and compete only in doing good and we have not been much of a blessing to the world
From the time of Isaac and Ishmael until today we have fought over Abraham and his heritage. Perhaps we can find a way through dialogue and building relationships to bring reconciliation - even Isaac and Ishmael reconciled and came together to bury Abraham. Perhaps we - Abraham?s UNRULY children can do the same.
Abraham is buried in Hebron and Jews, Christians and Muslims have fought to control this site for generations - Jews built the original shrine - the Byzantines rebuilt it as a church - and the Muslims rebuilt it as a mosque. This tomb, rather than unite us in remembrance of our common forefather has been the scene of bloodshed over the centuries and divided us because each of us insist on maintaining our status as the FAVORITE child
We can continue to focus on the differences in our views of Abraham or we can focus on the many commonalities that emphasize the family relationship.
Is it possible for the children of Abraham to coexist peacefully?
We are all witnesses to the faith of Abraham in our own communities - and as in a court of law - no two witnesses agree on all the details - we can agree to disagree.
Pope John Paul II visited Jerusalem in 2000 and left a prayer written on a piece of paper in a crack in the Western Wall:
God of our fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring your name to the nations. We are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer. And asking your forgiveness, we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the covenant.
If the children of Abraham would compete in doing good and struggling against injustice and misery we could truly be a blessing for this world - and regain our shared legacy from Abraham.
Let us pray to God to enlighten and guide us.
This was a talk given at a World Community Day program entitled “Daughters of Abraham Called to Peace” sponsored by Church Women United across the country on November 1, 2002. The subtitle of the program was “Exploring Relationships With Our Jewish and Muslim Sisters.