Ramadan Mubarak! Blessed Mubarak!

This coming week will mark the end of the Muslim observance of Ramadan. Ramadan is the month in the Muslim calendar (28-30 days) in which Muslims around the world practice fasting from all food and drink from sunup to sundown. As one of the five pillars of Islam, Ramadan encourages Muslims to deepen their practices of prayer, community and charity.

I still remember when Mary and I were invited to our first Eid celebration, marking the end of Ramadan. The food, the fellowship, and the love shown to us as guests will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Yet, as Christians throughout the world have had to change their celebration due to COVID-19, so Muslims throughout the world have had to change their practices within Ramadan. Though they continue their practice of fasting, their communal gathering has been done virtually just as Christians did during Holy Week and Easter.

Yet, beyond technology, I was fascinated to learn that many Muslim households have become creative in response to the pandemic. In some Muslim neighborhoods in Michigan, houses seek to outdo one another in lighting their houses at night, signifying their gathering for the evening “iftar,” breaking their fast of the day. In so doing, they visually reminded themselves that they remained united in their faith even if they were physically distanced from each other.

I share this with you, because in all our faiths we have sought new and creative means of connecting with each other, when our “usual” practices have been taken away. We need community to nurture and grow our faith in God. And our alternative observances – whether Muslim or Christian (or Jewish or Hindu or Buddhist) – show how important the communal dimension of our faith is.

Jesus in John 10 says something that we often miss: “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16) Jesus tells us that the “one flock” is bigger than our limited imagination. We associate the “one flock” with our particular fold, whether that be with our denomination or even our religion. That is not what Jesus says. Jesus says that we have to look beyond our fold, to see the other sheep as gathered together by the one shepherd.

And so I look to my Muslim brothers and sisters, and I am encouraged by their practice of faith. In their practice of Ramadan, I am encouraged to ask myself and of all of us as a church about how we can deepen our own practices of prayer, community and giving. In their outdoing one another in their household gatherings, I am encouraged to ask myself and of us as a church about how we can outdo one another in showing our own community, knowing that people will know we are Christians by our love.

And so I say to my Muslim friends – to Mudessar and to Sheheryar and to Samina, Navid and Ammar – and to all who will finish Ramadan this week,

Ramadan Mubarak! Blessed Mubarak!

May God richly shower peace upon you all.

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The Rev. David Armstrong-Reiner is pastor at Epiphany Lutheran Church, 2375 Ga. Highway 20 in Conyers. Contact him at pastor.david@conyerselc.org.

Editor

I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

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