Lent Devotion, Friday, March 30, 2018

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(The gospel writer Mark is speaking to us.)

The strangest story I told in my Gospel was about Jesus and the fig tree. One morning, as were walking to Jerusalem, Jesus was hungry. He approached a fig tree, hoping to find something to eat. But, finding no figs, he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”

The next morning, when we passed that way again, the tree had wilted and died!

In between those two occasions, Jesus protested in the Temple. And so the story of the fig tree is a parable about the Temple. The Temple was failing to produce the fruits of God. Its worship had become sterile; it was less a place of prayer, and more a way for the rich and the powerful to control the poor and the weak. The Temple needed to die, so that something new could be born.

That new birth happened in a couple of ways. One was through Jews like myself, who followed Jesus. Another was through Jews who did not follow Jesus, but who developed a way of life centered not on Temple and sacrifice, but on synagogue and rabbinic interpretation.

I grieve the great divide that developed between Christian Jews and non-Christian Jews. Perhaps it was inevitable given the strong feelings people have about religious beliefs. But I wonder: Could we not have maintained mutual respect? Could we not have seen that we were both striving to follow the God of Israel, and God’s intended shalom for the world? I think we could have. But I can’t change history. But you can change the present; you are making the history that others will look back on in the future. You can work for understanding among those who differ from one another. You can focus on a love that transcends differences. You can succeed where so many generations have failed. I hope you do.

God of mercy, give us the wisdom and the courage to befriend those with whom we differ. Lead us to work together, giving praise to you and caring for the well-being of all people. Amen.

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