By William Hay
It is lovely here in the courtyard of Christ Church. Church bells are ringing somewhere in the distance. Nearby in the palm tree there are birds singing. Across from me the Cathedral is a great artifice of shite stone spotted with age, a monument to man built for the love of God. The stained glass windows proclaim the message of the risen Christ.
It was built to bring the message of Jesus to Jews. Most Jews are secular and wouldn’t think calling oneself a Jew was a religious matter any more than my calling myself a Canadian is a religious matter.
Jesus was a religious Jew. At 12 he was a scholar and wonder child. Religious Jews don’t doubt him. Like the Moslems they believe he was a prophet of God. Jesus knew he was a Jew and this church and it’s ministry is to tell Jews that he was their own and his teaching was for them as much as for us.
I’m a Gentile. I’ve never thought of myself as such. It’s not the way I conceive of myself but here in the Holy City it’s the way I’m seen. Here you are Gentile, Jew, Moslem, or other. Yesterday I had the queer notion that they really ought to extend these walls a bit to the east and invite a Hindu temple and Buddhist Shrine and maybe an North American Indian sweat lodge.
There’s so much dissension over the little things here. But like Jesus it seems that all I talk to are mostly religious here and believe in one God. He’s out there somewhere and no one claims as close a relationship as Jesus does but as long as he doesn’t interfere with business he’s alright with most. Most pray for his intersession when things aren’t going right.
With the unrest between Palestine and Israel and the effect on tourism, the merchants in the markets have grown just a bit more religious. Religion thrives in times of stress and we don’t think of God much when our bellies are full and our loved ones surround us. We’re a race more prone to complain than praise. Whether we’re Arab, Indian, European, American or whatever that’s the nature of the beast. Blessing and worship and sacrifice and celebration even aren’t easy to come by as irritability, discontent and complaint. The very moment I have something I’ve longed for I want something more.
Jesus likened us to children and God to a parent. Jesus as a Jew drew his teachings from the Torah of his day. Here the vicar is a Jew. An Anglican jew who has become a Christian priest and is fond of saying that were Moses to return to day he’d no more recognize Judaism, than Mohammed would recognize Muslim or Jesus, Christianity. It’s a fact that these are historical grown religions that have expanded to be available to all mankind.
Black hari Krishna today stand in line next to Caucasian Native Sun Dance worshippers and we all try to forget our roots and seek to understand the roots of our chosen religion.
At Christ Church they know that Jesus was a Jew. So there’s the symbols of Judaism everywhere and after talking to Neil the Vicar I’ve picked up an Essential Talmud in hope of understanding Jesus better.
Here in Jerusalem its folly to be antisemetic. The priest in the little town of Chilliwack back in Canada who I first made a confession too had a sign above his door, “I work for a Jewish Carpenter.” If you really want to understand Jesus, the Historical Jesus, maybe not the Christ as opposed to the Messiah, then Judaism is simply the place to begin.
At dinner I talked to a Christian American Jew from the US as I listened to the new Messianic Music in the background.
Now the church bells are ringing and the birds are singing. Praise is music in whatever language and here they praise God in so many different tongues that I can only wish that all the religions of the world would congregate together and learn how to live in peace. While I a Gentile worship Jesus, a Jew, I really could use a sweat lodge with this Israeli Palestine conflict in the background or for that matter wish to have a student of Gandhi talk to the folk now meeting in Washington about the young men who I saw standing so courageous and afraid at the border crossing in Jericho. Why is it always young men?
I pray that Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t for naught. I pray that Jews and Arabs and Christians and Canadians and all the people of the world can find peace in this time. I pray that others can come here as I have and smell the fresh fragrance of the flowers in the early morning and hear the bells and the birds sing. I pray we can all join in worship and seek the peace that Jesus taught and learn the laws of Moses as we walk as Gentiles, Arabs, Jews, Indians, Americans or whatever. I’m trying to stand erect here. I want to stop crawling and walk upright. And I know that’s so hard to do when bullets are flying.
May words of peace and love be in all hearts today. I know that’s what Jesus would have wanted. I know that’s what Arabs and Jews alike want. It’s what I want. The bird songs and the smell of flowers and the soft light of dawn all speak to that hope.