Sunday, November 26, 2017

Next Year in Jerusalem

Next year in Jerusalem!

“You can be miles away from Jerusalem even while living there. And you can be on the other side of the world but only a step away. Because Jerusalem is much more than a city. It’s an ideal that we are struggling to reach.”

“The Jewish story can be summed up as a long journey from Egypt to Jerusalem. Beyond being just geographical locations, they symbolize two opposite spiritual states. The journey from Egypt to Jerusalem is a spiritual odyssey. Both as a nation and as individuals, we have always been leaving the slavery of Egypt and heading towards the freedom of the Promised Land. By analyzing the psychological Egypt and the inner Jerusalem, we will see how this is a road that we are still traveling.”

“The Hebrew name for Egypt is Mitzrayim, which means limitations, restrictions, obstacles. It represents a state in which our souls are trapped in our bodies, enslaved to material desires and tied down to physical limitations. It is a world in which righteousness, justice and holiness are held captive to corruption, selfishness and egotism.”

“Jerusalem means “the city of peace”—a place of peace between body and soul, heaven and earth, the ideal and reality. When our body becomes not a prison for the soul but rather a vehicle for the soul’s expression; when we live our lives according to our ideals rather than our cravings; when the world values goodness and generosity over selfish gain—then we are in Jerusalem, we are at peace with ourselves and the world.”  (Next Year in Jerusalem . . . Really!  By Aron Moss)

I stumbled across this peace, first just trying to verify my quote "Next year in Jerusalem" only to discover much more.  I love Google.  Sometimes it is a spiritual director for those searching.

We live in Egypt, and even as we are called out by our Moses toward the promised land we long for that which we know.  

"4 The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, "If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; 6 but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.""  (Numbers 11:4-6)

Even as we are nourished for the journey by the Bread of Heaven we long for that which we crave.  

"We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, 'You will be made free'?"  (John  8:33)

We live in "a state in which our souls are trapped in our bodies, enslaved to material desires and tied down to physical limitations. It is a world in which righteousness, justice and holiness are held captive to corruption, selfishness and egotism." When I read those words I couldn't help but think of the political realities of our culture today, and not just the political realities, but the overarching reality of our materialistic, capitalistic worldview that masquerades as freedom but which is an incredible bondage.  And make no mistake about it, there is no greater bondage than the bondage we cannot see, and willingly submit to, for it holds captive our very souls.

Next year in Jerusalem!

The quest for peace of body, mind, and spirit is a yearning that captivates me personally.  We were not intended to live in Egypt.  I am one who has been captive to many masters.  One need only read my medical charts.  Bipolar disorder with its depression and manic episodes shaping the contours of my life.  Alcoholism.  An addiction to tobacco.  But even more than this I have been captive to a restlessness of the soul that will not allow for the 'peace that passes all understanding'.

Next year in Jerusalem!

It seems to me that the hope that sustains both Christian and Jew is that God has indeed heard our cry as we labored under our taskmasters in 'Egypt' and has come, is coming, and will yet come to deliver us.  At the core of that hope is the belief that the way things are is not the way things always shall be, for indeed God is doing a new  thing.  

Next year in Jerusalem!
Perhaps the greatest challenge of being a Christian in this country, perhaps also a Jew, is that we have convinced ourselves that we are currently in Jerusalem.  That this is the promised land to which God has led us.  It is un-American, un-patriotic to acknowledge our bondage and captivity.  So much so that I probably could not get away with preaching this message without experiencing significant blowback.  How dare you suggest that "righteousness, justice and holiness are held captive to corruption, selfishness and egotism."  This is the greatest country on earth!

Which makes my yearning even greater.  Next year in Jerusalem!

There is something more.  And yet, it is still out of reach.

The problem for us is that there lies a wilderness in between us and the promised land.  Things will get worse before they get better.  And even though God promises sustenance for us on the journey, manna gets old after the third day.  We cannot see beyond that which lies immediately before us, the Red Sea, and then the wilderness, to the promised land.  And perhaps, for many of us, the truth is that we have not yet suffered enough under our current bondage to accept God's invitation to take the next step in the journey.  We are like the alcoholic, clearly in bondage, but not yet entirely out of control or languishing at rock bottom, and so we refuse to acknowledge even that we have a problem, yet alone accept the solution.

And when we do, we are afraid.

There is risk along the way.  We will find ourselves trapped between the Sea on the East, and Pharaoh's armies approaching from the west.  What shall we do?  "Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today!"

Just stand there.  And watch.  You will see God's salvation.

"Come, Lord Jesus, Come!" and "Next year in Jerusalem!" are the same prayer, just different voices.  We long for the salvation of our God, and for generation after generation we wait in expectation.  

In the meantime we sing:
There will be peace in the valley for me some day
There will be peace in the valley for me
I pray no more sorrow and sadness or trouble will be
There'll be peace in the valley for me

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