I’m using the readings in the Daily Lectionary for Holy Communion.
Ezekiel 37:21-28 – extract below
‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land ….
I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever.
Jeremiah 31:10-13 – extract below
‘He who scattered Israel will gather them
and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.’
Gospel of John 11:45-end – extract below
The high priests and pharisees said “Here is this Jesus performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”
Caiaphas (The Chief Priest) replied – “Don’t you know anything? Can’t you see that it’s to our advantage that one man dies for the people rather than the whole nation be destroyed?” He didn’t say this of his own accord, but as Chief Priest that year he unwittingly prophesied that Jesus was about to die sacrificially for the nation, and not for the nation alone, but so that he might gather into one the scattered children of God.
The common themes that run through these scriptures passages are – Land + Nation, and Temple.
The desire to have and own land is very strong. In the Old Testament (around 600 B.C.), the people are taken into exile and scattered – and the hope of once again returning to their land is a regular theme of the later books of the Old Testament.
We see the power of the land and nation in the return to Israel of Jews after WW2, with the particular history of persecution and the Holocaust in the Jewish memory.
But in the Gospel passage there is the promise that the mission of Jesus goes beyond the boundaries of Nation and Temple, ‘not for the nation alone, but to gather into one the scattered children of God.’
My question is – what are the equivalent things that motivate us today. I would suggest it’s often the same. Nationalism and Religion. These are two of the biggest things that divide people today.
And, how might Jesus break those boundaries today ?
In the current situation of Covid-19, we need people of all faiths to work together – not just for their own communities but for all. And we need leaders of all the nations to put aside their differences and competitiveness to seek a solution in the form of vaccine and a common approach that will eliminate this disease.
At the same time, we need to be asking questions about what after ? What can we learn about working together as one.
There’s a verse in the hymn “All my hope on God is founded” that sums this up:
Human pride and earthly glory,
sword and crown betray his trust;
what with care and toil he buildeth,
tower and temple, fall to dust.
But God’s power,
hour by hour,
is my temple and my tower.