Daily Reflection
April 8th, 2006

Tom Purcell

Accounting Department
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Ezekiel 37:21-28
Jeremiah 31:10, 11-12abcd, 13
John 11:45-56

An old saying reminds us that if we want to avoid conflict in conversations we should avoid discussing religion and politics. The readings today, which easily could be restated in 21st century vernacular, certainly underscore the inextricability of these two most basic human undertakings.

On one level these readings certainly fit with our Lenten journey. Both Ezekiel and Jeremiah lived at a time of upheaval in Israel – defeat and exile, regression to worship of false gods, turning away from the covenant with the Lord. Both prophesied a time of rebirth, regeneration and renewal, a future when the people (in their case the Israelites) would turn back to God with joy and be made whole again in God’s protection.

The excerpt from John provides some background into the impending execution of Jesus and context from the times. These passages immediately follow the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Imagine the buzz in Israel as word spread of this miracle, and the discussions in town squares about who this man Jesus really is. What is striking for me on this reading is the political intrigue that seems to be present – the Sanhedrin seems much more concerned with the possible repressive response from Rome than with the theology that Jesus presents. Caiaphas is ready to sacrifice Jesus as a scapegoat to keep the Romans at bay. There is no mention here, as there is later, of any religious reason for Jesus to be executed.

As I write this a man in Afghanistan has just been released from custody. His alleged crime was to convert from Islam to Christianity. Over the past week many Muslim clerics not only called for his execution, but suggested that if he were to be released, the people should rise up and destroy him. They called for the political power of the state to be used to support what they saw as a fundamental religious tenet. In the United States we continue to have acrimonious political struggles and shouting sessions (dialogue might not be the appropriate term for some of these discourses) about topics that arise from religious beliefs upon which people have deeply felt disagreements.

These intersections of religion and politics were on my mind when I reviewed these passages for today. I mentally re-worded the first lines of Ezekiel to read as follows:

“Thus says the Lord GOD
I will take the children of the world from among the nations To which they have come, And gather them from all sides to bring them back to their land.
I will make them one nation upon the land, In the world, And there shall be one prince for them all.
Never again shall they be many nations,
And never again shall they be divided into many kingdoms.”

Where is this land? I think it is a oneness with God, a sense of wholeness that we are re-united with God in the way God means for us to be. It seems to me that (almost) all people have this yearning to find our way back to God, that God has created in us this need to be reconciled with the almighty and with the oneness of our human family. Where we have religious disagreements (that then bleed (literally) into politics) is on the identity of the “prince” for us all. Is it Abraham, or Jesus, or Mohammed, or Buddha? Could it be a princess? If our prince(ss) is “right,” aren’t the other ones “wrong?” And if the other ones are “wrong,” shouldn’t we use our (political) power to show our God that we will unite everyone under our prince(ss)?

If someone else feels that a prince(ss) different from ours can lead them back to their land, isn’t it important that they follow that path to a oneness with God? This great diaspora of humanity from the nation of God will continue until we all understand that unity with God’s wishes for us is the ultimate goal, and that the prince(ss) that lead us there are means to this end.

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