Saturday, October 27, 2012
This weekend, all around the world the Muslim community celebrates the holy holiday known in The Gambia as Tobaski. The festival of the sacrifice. God summoned Abraham to sacrifice his son, Ishmael. Abraham obeyed. Before the sacrifice occurred, God stopped Abraham from his task. Abraham obeyed. His son's life spared.
I know the story. I've heard about Abraham's faithfulness and his obedience to God. I've read and heard sermons preached on the angst of Abraham at having to sacrifice his son. Yet, he obeys. Abraham as one of the ancestors of the faith for Jewish, Christian and Muslims. Abraham as a model of faithfulness. I know the story.
Or so I thought.
During my first celebration of Tobaski, a three-day affair in The Gambia, I attended all the required prayers, I bought new clothes, I helped clean the compound, and I helped cook. And I watched the sacrifice of the rams. (Of course since I had a camera my family wanted pictures of the event).
Each year during Tobaski rams are sacrificed to remember Abraham and his son Ishmael. As I stood there watching the sacrifice of the ram, my brother leans over to me and says, "Do you know why we slaughter rams?"
He says, "We slaughter rams to remind ourselves that Ishmael could have been killed, but God didn't allow it; God saved us and gave us life."
It wasn't about Abraham, it was about God. God's grace.
Throughout my two years in Africa my definition of God and worship and faith expanded. Old stories were made new. New stories were revealed. New understandings broke through. God was alive and active and life-giving for me.
I give thanks for my Muslim brothers and sisters across the world. I give thanks for the opportunity to learn from one another. I give thanks for the opportunity to love one another. We are all God's children.
Each year as Tobaski is celebrated I offer the same prayer. I pray for this world and all the opportunities we have to point away from ourselves and to point to God. I pray that we see God in our neighbor, in the stranger, and in the enemy.
Thanks be to God.