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This Week's Commentary
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 26, 2014Deuteronomy 34:1-12 | Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17 | 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 | Matthew 22:34-46
Holiness and finitude are the twin topics for this collection of texts. Even the great first Prophet, Moses, dies without accomplishing all he wished to do. He cannot enter the Promised Land. Like Martin Luther King centuries later he can only say I see it from afar. Reinhold Niebuhr left us with a great statement about finitude and, in some ways, about holiness: Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope.
Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we must be saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, could be accomplished alone; therefore, we must be saved by love.
No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our own standpoint; therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.
Neither Moses, nor Martin, nor anyone can do all that is needed to do in one lifetime, therefore we are called to acknowledge holiness, yes, to acknowledge it and own it. The pursuit of holiness is vain and foolish. The text calling all to be holy is not in the imperative, it is in the indicative. We are truly the children of the Holy One, ergo, we are holy. Schiller got a glimpse of that when he referred to humans as Goetterfunken, sparks of the divine. That is what Imago Dei is finally all about.
Once we acknowledge and own our holiness, then we act accordingly, then we can “possess” the land. It is imperative to preach today, only two days after the anniversary of the creation of the United Nations, that Israel’s right to the Holy Land is conditional on Israel’s holiness. It is also imperative to proclaim from the pulpits today that Christians must join all people of good faith in pursuing a solution to the Palestinian Nakba. Zionism in all of its pernitious forms, especially Christian Zionism must be opposed. The Bible does not contain a carte blanche for pillage or a mortgage for murderous occupation. Only Holy People can live in the Holy Land. Holy in the sense of the divine indicative of holiness, a holiness present day Zionists are farthest away from.
As I began writing this today I read about Rabbi Brant Rosen had resigned from his Reconstructionist Synagogue on Septemeber 2. This resignation surely was connected with Rabbi Rosen’s honest and ethical critique of Zionism. Friends of Sabeel North America commented on the resignation and commended Rabbi Rosen. In addition FOSNA urged all to read more about this ethical Jew.
We urge our friends to read and reflect on Rosen’s brilliant theological analysis in chapter an aptly titled essay “Rising to the Challenge: A Jewish Theology of Liberation.” He begins the chapter with these words: “As a Rabbi, a person of faith, and an activist committed to the values of universal human rights, my religious thinking has been profoundly influenced by the ideas of Palestinian Liberation Theology.” This courageous affirmation begins his remarkable essay that delves deeply into his own Jewish tradition in search of theological affirmations that embrace the equality of every human being before God, the centrality of justice in the “healing of the world” (Tikkun Olam, and the priority of non-violent resistance as one of the instruments available to us as we embrace justice and peace.
This is a clear example of Holiness. We are all invited to acknowledge our finitude and to act AS THE HOLY PEOPLE OF THE HOLY GOD WHO KNOWS EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US BY OUR OWN NAME.