In each of our traditions, we have sought over the years to detail, define and codify the history and teachings of our faiths. Whether our books are divine in provenance or inspired by the contemplation of divine will, each serves to help us understand and connect with God.
On Sunday, a group of the curious gathered at the Mata Tripta Ji Gurdwara Sahib in Plymouth to explore our Sacred Texts with a panel of scholars, clergy and experts, moderated by Rev. Dr. Stephen Butler Murray, President of the Ecumenical Theological Seminary.
Panelists spoke on the sacred texts of Islam, Sikhism, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, First Church of Christ, Scientist, Judaism, and Catholicism. Attendees had the opportunity to learn what the sacred texts were in each tradition, some details about how they are handled and cared for, how they were to be read, and what supplementary texts exist in each tradition.
Each of the presentations was filled with fascinating details. For example, that chanting the Quran out loud connects with a spiritual force in the text that only comes through correct and present chanting, that part of the miracle is in the sound. Chanting the Quran can be used to exercise evil spirits, and consecrate a mosque. It is chanted 24/7 in Mecca.
The Sikh Guru Granth Sahib is considered the living guru or teacher. It is the compilation of teachings of 10 gurus, who compiled them along with poetry and prayers of other traditions, into the sacred text of the Sikh. The tenth and final guru declared it the living guru, and it is now treated like a revered spiritual leader and, according to Sikh tradition, royalty, carried on a palanquin, resting on a luxurious bed, in fact, put to bed at night.
Jewish sacred texts, when damaged or old beyond use, are collected in a container called a Geniza. And also like a person, they are given a proper burial.
Adherents to many faiths, like Brother Al, carry a bible with them, or even access sacred texts on their cell phones like Raman Singh.
President Larry Cleveland of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke of his great joy in reading scriptures daily, that like both Sikhs and members of the Church of Christ Scientist, LDS church members are self-taught, recognizing the importance of their individual relationships with the scripture.
And we learned that Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist, experienced a transformational healing following a severe injury, and spent the next three years studying the bible for what she considered repeatable principals behind the healings performed by Jesus and the prophets. She assembled this into Science and Health, which is considered a “key” to that scriptural truth.
Across the presentations, filled with fascinating details, philosophies, practices and historical notes, we found that, like so much in our faiths traditions, our approaches to our widely varying beliefs and practices are based on the same values. The word of God, however, and through whomever, it arrives, is a healing force that may be a great source of wisdom, joy, and comfort, and is always to be approached with reverence and respect.
Greatest thanks to the Mata Tripta Ji Gurdwara for hosting this event, and to the panelists for the work they each put into sharing their sacred texts with all of us: Moderator, The Rev. Dr. Stephen Butler Murray, Hazzan Steve Klaper, Brother Al Mascia, OFM, Imam Salie, Raman Singh, Larry Thomas Cleveland, and Mary Helen Black.