Coveting my neighbor’s religion

We know we are not supposed to covet – yearn to possess or have – other people’s belongings.  But what about coveting other people’s faith? Or their faith practices?

I have been a Congregationalist all my life, but I am inspired by the experiences and practices of other traditions and faiths.  I have to admit to a bit of “religious envy” when I think of observances not included in my own.

It isn’t that I want to convert to another faith.

I just want to learn from and maybe occasionally borrow some of the religious practices of others.

Here are some traditions that inspire me:

Namaste – when I go to my yoga practice, we begin and end by greeting one another and honoring the holy within.  We Christians have gotten away from recognizing the Christ, the divine, the Spirit that dwells in each one of us.  When we “pass the peace of Christ” on a Sunday morning, it is an attempt to share the holy with each other, but somehow it not as deeply satisfying as clasping my hands at my heart space, looking into another’s eyes to say “Namaste,” the holy in my greets the holy in you.

Crossing oneself. The Catholics do it. So do Episcopalians. It is a small gesture that somehow offers both a punctuation to prayer and a physical reminder of God’s presence. I find myself doing this at home sometimes when I yearn for a literal “hands on” expression of God’s presence.

Mezuzah – We have a mezuzah on our doorway, a small wooden box containing a tiny scroll with the Shema prayer: Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your resources.   Mezuzah

The mezuzah honors my husband’s Jewish upbringing but also reminds me that God’s presence goes with me as I enter into the world in the morning and arrive back home at night.  I  love the idea of praying as I go out and as I come in, that physical reminder that God goes with me

 Praying five times/day.  If you take the time to listen to the haunting and beautiful call to Muslim prayer  you will hear the words,

  • “God is the greatest,” sings the imman,
  • “I bear witness that there is no other deity beside God.”
  • “Make haste toward prayer.”

I love the idea of interrupting my busy day with the reminder of God’s presence and the invitation to pause and receive the refreshing Spirit of God.  It is too easy to allow an entire day – or even days – go by, filled with tasks and to-do lists, but not with the awareness of God.  If listening to a call to prayer from a minaret is not part of my Christian tradition, what method can I use to remind myself to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16)?

Shabbat at home – another powerful Jewish practice, bringing our faith into the home with prayers, lighting candles, songs, and sharing.  What a powerful way to share faith and to pass along traditions, values, and learning to our children.

The season of Lent invites us to develop and deepen our spiritual practices by celebrating our own while also honoring others. I can learn from others even as I honor my own Christian tradition.

What spiritual practices will you incorporate into your life to remind yourself of God’s presence with you, every day?




5 thoughts on “Coveting my neighbor’s religion

  1. Jill

    Leave it to you to pick up on a fleeting thought I had while watching a documentary on Islam and expand the idea into a thoughtful and inspiring essay! There are so many beautiful ways to find and share spiritual meaning in our lives – no matter what religion we practice.
    As we say in my yoga class, Sat Nam (true identity – may you find peace with who you really are)
    Thanks Pastor Susie!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Carol Crump Bryner

    We all seem to have a need for these rituals. Sometimes I wish I had a rosary to calm life’s anxieties. I say “Namaste” at yoga also, and cross myself some nights before I go to sleep – just in case. But I think it’s more than that. It is a need to be in communion with others who make similar motions. My children were christened in the Russian Orthodox church, because I thought it would mean a lot to my in-laws to do it. But except for occasional visits to the little Russian church in Menlo Park, California, they didn’t have much connection to religion. So my son, when he was in elementary school, started his own religion – “Cuthdetharnica” – that had its own practices and holidays. I still have a card from his best friend saying “Happy Cuthdetharnica, Paul!” I thought it was very resourceful of him to fill this need he had for a belief.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have these same feelings myself. Recently, with all the discussion in the media about cultural appropriation, I’ve begun to feel some discomfort at borrowing others’ traditions. We had a pastor once who concluded the service every week with, “Shalom, Salaam, Namaste, Amen.” I never felt good about that. It always made me feel as if we were appropriating someone else’s power words without having earned them through proper practice.

    Liked by 1 person

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