My heart has been stirred of late given the loss of lives in the Middle East, though unlike many, I understand
Isreal's right to defend herself against the terrorists forces of Hamas, now Hezbollah and perhaps eventually Iran.
From a religious position, Isreal seems for centuries to have known the favor of G-d given its survival, having miraculously re-established herself as a nation in 1948, defending her existence again in the Six Day War in 1967.
It's interesting to me that a small percentage of Palestinians are actually Jewish, others Christian. Archaeologic and genetic data support that both Jews and Palestinians came from the ancient Canaanites, who extensively mixed with Egyptians, Mesopotamian, and Anatolian peoples in ancient times. Thus, Palestinian-Jewish rivalry is based in cultural and religious, but not in genetic, differences.
The majority of Palestinians are Muslim, praying daily to the God of Abraham, though using an Arabic name.
Having been raised in a fundamentalist, evangelical, Pentecostal environment, we were always taught that we are saved by grace, through faith in Jesus, though even Paul labels that faith a gift of God.
Now that I have experienced the gift of God and grace for over 50 years, I find myself questioning my theological underpinnings. In fact, having served with some of the most well meaning of men and women, all at times showing preference for their particular bent toward Christianity, reinforcing with scripture, though often cherry-picked.
Yet, so many of those same persons demonstrate the anointing of God, so I must wonder if God uses the imperfect to pull off his perfect will. Perhaps even those who were inspired as authors of the text of scripture, and though inspired, wrote only as they best understood. The mystery of scripture, given centuries of impact.
Even some of them failed to make the cut for inclusion in the Canon, that official book of books, composed by equally religious parties, some whose offspring were willing to later burn others at the stake, if they chose to disagree.
That doesn't seem to align with the image of Christ that I have come to know.
Where does that leave us in this moment with a Christianity more divided than ever, and with churches on ever corner, though most competing with each other, though in denial of that reality.
Some say Christianity, the term early on assigned to the Ecclesia was never God's intent, this Being that knows the end from the beginning, as we claim to believe. The One whose will it is that none perish, but that all should have everlasting life. The one who became flesh and dwelt among us, and with that demonstrated quite the contrast to what Judaism had spawned by way of Abraham's offspring, a man who's
faith was counted as righteousness, and long before the Torah.
I wonder if Jesus were to show up again, would there be a similar contrast with our current Christianity. Though we preach grace, it most often comes with requirements and that's not a gift.
Jesus was quoted as saying, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me." I now wonder if by that he meant that becoming like Him through an intimacy with the Father, by the Spirit was the intent, rather than establishing another religion.
I must wonder if we have not done again what Judaism first did with Abraham's faith.
The prophets sure indicated that sacrifice and legalism was not what God was after, but rather a pure heart. It's becoming more and more difficult to believe that unless people experience a faith journey of similar stripe to Evangelical Christianity, they are doomed.
Christ was first manifest in Creation, where everything works together in complementary ecosystems, not contradictory opposing systems, as seems the case with modern Christianity given its endless versions.
I am wondering if Gods plan was rather that each according to his heart pursue God by faith as did Abraham. The gift of grace then made equally accessible from a loving God, so that we by the Spirit live and love as Jesus. As to the matter of sacrifice, that is Finished…He said it!
Maybe God knew we would make things difficult again, even with this second go around, that being the resson for becoming flesh, so that He might offered up Himself, removing any excuse for questioning His love.
What more does it take to say you are loved? The Spirit of God dwells with us, is present among us, empowering us to live and love as Christ so loved. We need simply to be open!
Some of this came to my mind this morning as I read from Rohr's Devotional while watching Creation show out her Fall colors around our mountain home.
He quotes Choctaw elder and retired Episcopal bishop Steven Charleston, offering this meditation:
"For all the great thoughts I have read
For all the deep books I have studied
None has brought me nearer to Spirit
Than a walk beneath shimmering leaves
Golden red with the fire of autumn
When the air is crisp
And the sun a pale eye, watching.
I am a scholar of the senses
A theologian of the tangible.
Spirit touches me and I touch Spirit
Each time I lift a leaf from my path
A thin flake of fire golden red
Still warm from the breath that made it."*
Let's not make this so hard. You are loved and the beauty of this autumn moment is evidence, unlikely found anywhere else in the galaxies!
*Steven Charleston, “Scholar of the Senses,” in Spirit Wheel: Meditations from an Indigenous Elder (Minneapolis, MN: Broadleaf Books, 2023), 22.