Islam’s perspective on political development begins with the spiritual concept of the community of believers (the umma), their individual responsibility to community and to God. With this, other faith groups are not in dispute concerning their own spiritual communities.

In turn, the spiritual community of believers takes precedence over institutional structure within the Christian community. It is understood that the Holy Spirit– God’s breath and power– is upon all followers of Jesus and joins them together. The Passover Feast was Jesus’ last meal, emphasizing the scapegoat motif. Followers of Jesus ritually partake of that communal feast, and despite the Reformation of some 500 years ago that led to institutional splits, believers are still spiritually united in communion and identify with one another.

In antiquity it was the responsibility of the community to hand out justice. The five centuries up to now slowly evolved as there were attempts to put Godly principles into play politically, but the respective faith institutions became private personal affairs of conscience. The Holy Roman Empire had finally lost its grip.

The political Islamic perspective is that it is the responsibility of the state as the organizer of the community to promote and facilitate ethical behaviour prescribed in the Quran. It is a moral mission and activist posture to build with a divine role in the world.1

It has been said the Western perspective is that “political development is inversely related to religion in politics because secularism is a fundamental criterion of political development.”2 Mackenzie King might have disagreed. King started out longing to put an end to class conflict with a growing idea that the union of “religion, politics, and education” would best deliver reform. Ramsay Cook wrote that in the late nineteenth century King, shunning laissez-faire orthodoxy, had blended Calvinism [indicating the hand to the plow and not quitting?] and social reform producing a ‘religious liberalism.’ King’s aim for the Kingdom of God on earth ironically saw the development of the secular city.3 Industrialization and urbanization brought the end of many of the old ways of life and livelihood.

Cultures organize themselves with mores and routines; at a sophisticated level, we have political-civil society expressed by John Locke (1632-1704) as a tool for interpreting political behaviour, affected by beliefs, social forces, material traits of a social group. National identity might be associated with tribal, or clan structures or sects, carrying a collective awareness of a common history. Historically we have been limited by affectations of distinctive language and culture, and seeing differences in spiritualities instead of discovering similarities once weeding through dialects and customs. We need common identifiers in a transient world. Everyone needs to know at their core that they are a vital part of the community or we become as lost ships at sea.

1. Esposito, John L., ed. (1980). Islam and Development: Religion and Sociopolitical Change. Syracuse, Syracuse University Press, pp. 3,4.

2. Ibid, p. 3.

3. Wardhaugh, Robert A., (2000). Mackenzie King and the Prairie West. Toronto, University of Toronto Press, p.9.; George Ramsay Cook (1985). The Regenerators: Social Criticism in Late Victorian English Canada, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, p. 169.

I was about twenty years old ( a collection of decades ago) when I read Eusebius’s book on the early church. Everything seemed to make progressive logical sense until his explanation of how Constantine was suppose to have become a Christian and to have had a weird vision from the “Christian” god leading him to victory. Nothing could be more contradictory to the teachings of Rabbi/Guru Jesus. I was left feeling out of synch (not for the first time) with the rest of my faith group who, as far as I could tell, bought this stuff hook-line-and-sucker. Everything seemed to go sideways after that, historically speaking.

When we look at art history, we get a more complete picture. Persecution was not able to eradicate these believers of the way. These “little Christs” met quietly and secretly in their house churches. Certain houses had baptismal tanks for the ritual of the water and word to symbolize the washing away of our tending to be outside of God’s loving will. The psychological and visceral impact coupled with pure intent is quite impactful. Many other people groups used baptism rituals, but this one was brought along from those of the Jewish faith. It is an act of humility that we cannot follow a pure path alone. It is a path and a work in progress as one allows the Divine to be a vital part of one’s life. They were a tight knit community.

Constantine, not wanting to be bested by these cell groups that quietly came and went, offered an olive branch of non persecution. Eusebius gets to become a bishop in this deal, which probably explains his easy enthusiasm for an Emperor who has a passion with associating himself as Sol Invictus “Unconquered Sun.” Various mosaics and massive sculptures would feature his having the rays of the sun radiating from Constantine’s head.

It was Constantine who initiated Sunday worship pushing the church to assume Sunday worship as their own. In the early years the followers of Jesus went to synagogue on the Sabbath. According to Wikipedia, Constantine decreed (March 7, 321) dies Solis –day of the sun, “Sunday”–as the Roman day of rest. Only farmers were exempt.

In a very deft move, Constantine routed the Christians out of hiding and gained complete control. The doctrine of the Trinity has the fingermarks of Constantine as with how he manipulated the Roman sun god imagery to his own advantage. Over interpretation and attribution of this document plagues and confuses people to this day, distracting from the core teachings of the prophet and rabbi Jesus.

Luke 14: 16-24; see Matt 22:1-10 The Great Banquet

“Behold a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” Luke 7:34; Matt 11:19

Eating together establishes community, the offering of hospitality, and the building of trust and friendship. There are no defensive weapons at a meal table and animosities are set aside.

In the parable of the Great Supper the people had been invited well in advance and their silence implied they were coming to the feast. Only when everything was ready and the servant went to get them did the truth of the matter come out. The people had been twice called. In the Matthew version it was a wedding feast that these people were rejecting. Nurturing relationship and honouring one another took a back seat to mundane interests of the individuals. Community, hospitality, trust and friendship held no great significance to the first invited.

Deuteronomy 20:5-8 lists building a new house, planting a new vineyard and being engaged as reasons why a man may not enter into battle in case he dies. He is expected to establish ownership of his assets first before someone takes them out from under him. These people who have refused to come to the banquet are trying to justify their spurning of this great invitation based on this text.

They are saying “I don’t have to because the scriptures say you can’t make me.” Indeed, Judas Maccabaeus, leader of the Jews from 166-160 B.C. , also used this Deuteronomic text when he was seeking soldiers to defend the sanctuary against invaders (1 Maccabees 3:56).

At first blush we think that this situation is different – a banquet is not a war. However, this banquet is calling them to die to selfishness and sin. It is calling them into rest, peace and joy. It is calling them to trust that everything will be alright for them to take this life-affirming and rejoicing pause, for, life need not be one long tug-of-war.

We are being warned against worldly concerns which lead us to miss what is far more important. Recall Luke 14:26, 27: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” We are talking about eternal divine principles.

We cannot serve two masters. We will hate the one and love the other. God’s equations and plumb lines always ring true. God’s wisdom is far greater than all our contrived doings. Jesus also reminds us not to be worried for tomorrow for tomorrow will take care of itself. We are to feast in God’s peace.

Even though the initial telling of this parable brings into sharp relief how the Jewish people are symbolically represented as the first invited to the banquet, this principle holds true for all of us. At any given time we may play the part of the first invited and neglect the honour in which that entails. Even though many Christians are Gentiles and are represented here as the people collected from the highways and the byways to come to the banquet, we still play a part as the first invited if we have had the privilege of growing up in a Christian home, a church-going home.  Other ancient cultures are held to the same principles–you know who you are.

We become complacent in our relationship and forget to hold precious that which we have. We take our relationship with God for granted. We take goodness and peace for granted. The next thing we know, we have lost it all. Someone else has gone to the party, to the wedding feast of the Lamb of God. The door has been shut and we are banging on the door but we are not acknowledged.

The sovereignty of the Divine Presence (Holy Spirit)  comes to us each and every day. We must be ready for a change in direction every moment. We must be willing to follow God’s drum beat and not our own. We must be constantly prepared. We have been told of the great feast to celebrate our union with Christ. It would be folly to get distracted in temporal things which have no lasting value. We are called to constant preparedness for it is through us that the world sees the divine domain.

If we don’t have the Divine Domain through the Holy Spirit in us now we surely will be hard pressed to see it in its fullness when it comes. Remember the words of Jesus,

So then because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I will spew you out of my mouth. Because you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white raiment, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness do not appear; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore and repent. Rev. 3:16-19.

We see a new dynamic which urges us to invite the poor, maimed, lame, and blind to dinner rather than friends, relatives and rich neighbours capable of repaying the invitation. But if we fail to go deeper into the message we are reading only a message of humanitarianism. Much more is going on here.

The beatitudes help us to understand more fully: Matthew 5:3-16. Usually the text is read until verse 12 but the subsequent verses give a more complete thought and they speak to our parable. May our salt be salty for truth to be savory and our light illuminate the darkness of hurting souls. Those of us who are in relationship with the host already know the when and where of this community reinforcing feast. Of course God expects us to dine and bask in truth, often revealed in scriptures, each and every day.

The banqueting house of love, peace and joy is never too full for us for the servants to go out and find the lost souls who are not aware that the banqueting door is open to them. We are told to go out quickly and compel these people poor in spirit, and so on, to feast on God’s goodness and redeeming grace. As Frederick Borsch has pointed out, “Israel had long thought of the divine restoration as a banquet.” ( p. 53, Many Things in Parables; Extravagant Stories of New Community, Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1988.)

So we find once again that the last have become first. It echos the event of Jesus visiting Zacchaeus’s house in Jericho, the stories of the full time workers not favoured over the part-time workers, and the elder son discovering a party in the making for his rebellious long-lost brother. Class, seniority and merit have no extra special standing in God’s banquet feast of goodness and grace.

Yet let us not neglect the fact that Jesus had a real live healing ministry. God’s care for us is not just other than the physical. God does indeed care for our every need. Jesus had said to John’s disciples, “Go your way, and tell John what things you have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.” We greet this news with joy and gladness. Amen and amen.