There is not a person in our family who would not be able to recount our first Christmas in the Muslim country where we served. It was a very conservative nation, and we knew before we ever went there that the context would not lend itself to traditional celebrating. We determined early on to do all we could to make it wonderful for the family and meaningful to our Muslim neighbors.
Easter is a time for reflecting. Gratefully we remember Christ’s cross, His very temporary grave, and the truth of His glorious resurrection.
I’m in a South Asian neighborhood in the Bronx, New York, looking out the window of a great city church into the face of a very large mosque, which sits just across the street. At this time of day, it’s mostly elderly-looking men in loosely fitting ethnic attire who enter its gates. A few veiled Muslim women, one or two with kids in strollers, have walked past but not gone in.
I never thought much of Ash Wednesday before, since in my denomination the Lenten ritual of having the sign of the cross caressed into one’s forehead with symbolic ash isn’t really practiced. I’ve never thought it was heresy or anything; in fact, aside from casual conversations I may have had with friends who wore their ash crosses home from church on Ash Wednesday, I never really thought of it much at all.
I’ve been thinking about this since it happened-this past February 1. It’s taken me a while to process, because I have lovely Muslim friends I have every reason to respect. But what February 1 was two weeks ago is larger than it was a year ago, and it will be smaller than what next year makes it. Because of this, I’m ready to share my thoughts.