Summary: Part 1 of series of sermons on this topic--inspired by Adam Hamilton who did a similar series in his congregation, Church of the Resurrection
(I have included web sites that I researched in the text of the sermon)
Greeting, attendance pads, Class 101
Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2"Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We have seen his star as it arose, and we have come to worship him."
When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11They entered the house where the child and his mother, Mary, were, and they fell down before him and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Today I begin what I think could one of the most important preaching series that I have ever done—Christianity and the religions of the world.
I’m also highly indebted to Adam Hamilton, pastor of the United Methodist Church of Resurrection in Kansas City, a church that I attended in my travels last summer. He preached this type of sermons in his church last year and I am using much of his research on this topic.
This series could be the most important that I have ever done, especially in light of the times we live in – wars on multiple continents and a time during which our nation has been at war and now occupies Iraq. There is conflict within our own nation about displaying of religious documents such as the Ten Commandments in a court of law. When you examine everyone of those places you discover that underneath all the conflict is conflict about ideas, truth claims, and religion.
In Israel and in the Middle East the conflict is between Palestinian Muslims and Jews.
In the past, at the brink of nuclear war, India and Pakistan, that was a reflection of conflict between Hindus and Muslims.
In our own war on terrorism and the conflict we’ve had with Iraq, it’s a conflict between a predominantly Christian nation and a predominantly Muslim nation. And while we in the USA don’t see it necessarily as a religious conflict, I am pretty certain that on the other side it is seen as a religious conflict. We live in a world where conflict over ideas is most pronounced. That’s part of what’s behind the continued guerilla attacks and terrorism in that nation.
You and I also live in a world where you and I will come in contact with people of other faiths—more than any other time in our past. It is now likely that you have or will have neighbors right here in the Shenandoah Valley now who are Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists or Jews.
Your children may have or will have teachers at school of one of these religions. Your children will go to school with other children from one of these other religions and your children will probably learn about these world religions. You will have co-workers or sometime you may have a boss who is of another faith.
No doubt about what we see emerging is different than the world in which most of you have grown up and lived most of your lives. Many of you grew up in towns where there was not even a single Buddhist or Hindu or Muslim. Some of you may not know the difference between a Muslim or a Hindu. What do the different groups believe?
I think it is imperative that we as Christians come to understand the world in which we live and those who are seeking after God and who offer alternative truth claims. I think we need to understand their claims to the truth, that we might build bridges with them, that we might understand and learn from them what they have learned about God. As we converse with people of other faiths, it is above all an opportunity for us to share our own faith and how we perceive God and sharing with others what we have come to know In Jesus Christ.
How can you share what you know about the truth in Jesus Christ when you don’t understand where that other person is coming from? But if you have the opportunity to understand what another person of a different faith is perceiving about God and the world and if you listen with sensitivity, it opens the door for you to share the light of Christ.
So this is an important series of sermons that I will be doing in the weeks ahead. It is important but it is also threatening. I know this is uncomfortable for some of you—at least two persons have been honest enough to share that with me. I understand the discomfort and challenge of entering into this area.