The Mother We Almost Had

This headline is taken from a skit by John Bell that Lauren Bernhofer performed on August 12th in a staged sermon interruption (see picture). Dressed with a Muslim head scarf, Lauren brought to us that day the voice of Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, Abraham’s firstborn son. It was a reminder how closely related Jews, Christians and Muslims really are, and that we could have had Hagar as ancestor just as easily as Sarah, Abraham’s wife.

Yet this was not all that made Sunday, August 12th, interesting. The children’s sermon was different, too, as our children, led by Lillie and Allison, performed a rap that celebrated Abraham as the father of three religions, the People of the Book. The verses below may give you a hint of what happens when an old-country pastor becomes infected by hip-hop culture:

But old Abe thought it was funny
When God showed him all the stars
And said they’re more than Jersey cars.
“And that’s the number of your kids.
Now count them, man of wits!”

And so I got my Jewish brother,
And Fatima her Muslim mother.
And that is all I have to say
On Abraham, the real cool dude.
God talked to him and was not rude.

It was no coincidence, then, that eighteen of us attended a friendship dinner at the Interfaith Dialog Center of our Turkish friends in Piscataway in the evening of the same day. We shared a lavish meal, had a remarkable slide show introducing us to Turkey and its history, and exchanged beautiful gifts with one another. Our children repeated the rap singing of the morning and found new friends. We also spent considerable dinner time planning a trip to Turkey which our Muslim friends have offered to our church.

When the day was over, I felt grateful for the many experiences and impressions it had produced. And I realized that, with days like these, First Reformed Church and its friends contribute, in however humble ways, to the establishment of peace between three great religions.

About Rev. Dr. Hartmut Kramer-Mills

Hartmut Kramer-Mills, a native of Jena, Germany, began his theological education at Heidelberg University. After the Middle Exam in 1986 he received a scholarship from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches for McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. He graduated from McCormick with a Master of Divinity in 1988. He graduated from Marburg University in Germany with the Ecclesiastical Exam in 1990, and received a Dr. theol. from Greifswald University, Germany, in 1997. From 1990 to 1991 he was vicar at St. Wenzel in Naumburg, Germany. He was ordained minister of word and sacrament in 1993 through the Protestant Church of the Church Province of Saxony. From 1993 to 1998 he served as assistant pastor in Stoessen, Goerschen, and Rathewitz, Germany. At the same time he was lecturer for Church History at Erfurt College in Germany. From 1999 to 2000 he served the Spotswood Reformed Church in New Jersey as interim pastor. Since 2000 he and his wife serve the First Reformed Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey, as co-pastors.
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