Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Αιωνια η μνημη, memory eternal

Save us, Yahweh! There are no devout men left,
fidelity has vanished from mankind.
All they do is lie to one another,
flattering lips, talk from a double heart.
May Yahweh slice off every flattering lip,
each tongue so glib with boasts,
those who say, ‘In our tongues lies our strength,
our lips have the advantage, who can master us?’
‘For the plundered poor, for the needy who groan,
now will I act,’ says Yahweh.
‘I will grant them the safety they sigh for.’
Psalm 12 (Day 2)

The words, ‘each tongue so glib with boasts,’ came immediately to mind when reading, this august morning, a series of praises of people who support the state of Israel, that were attached below a photograph of a handsome young soldier captioned ‘The more I serve my country the more I fall in love with it’. Why ‘august’ morning? Because today is the commemoration of World War I’s armistice day, now called ‘Veterans Day’ in these United States, and ‘Remembrance Day’ in Canada. For me, this is a day of pause. I prefer ‘Remembrance Day’ even though I am an American, much as I also prefer other Canadian traditions over those of my native country. There really are no ‘countries,’ only people.

‘Remembrance’ holds more meaning for me, not that I wish to dishonor or discredit ‘Veterans.’ Though I am not a veteran of any declared war, as my Dad and Granddad were, I am a veteran, and vehemently, of the war against humanity, that is waged daily by the enemy of mankind, the war eulogized (I can’t say that ‘eulogized’ is the right word) by my poet, Walt Whitman, in his Leaves of Grass, a fitting meditation for this day.

As I ponder'd in silence,
Returning upon my poems, considering, lingering long,
A Phantom arose before me with distrustful aspect,
Terrible in beauty, age, and power,
The genius of poets of old lands,
As to me directing like flame its eyes,
With finger pointing to many immortal songs,
And menacing voice, What singest thou? it said,
Know'st thou not there is but one theme for ever-enduring bards?
And that is the theme of War, the fortune of battles,
The making of perfect soldiers.
Be it so, then I answer'd,
I too haughty Shade also sing war, and a longer and greater one than any,
Waged in my book with varying fortune, with flight, advance and retreat, victory deferr'd and wavering,
(Yet methinks certain, or as good as certain, at the last,) the field the world,
For life and death, for the Body and for the eternal Soul,
Lo, I too am come, chanting the chant of battles,
I above all promote brave soldiers.

Whitman, like me, was not a veteran of any declared war, though he labored voluntarily for several years during the Civil War, without payment of any kind, in the field hospitals set up in the nation’s capital, as a nurse and general companion-to-the-dying, and so had the right to write what and as he did. The experience certainly changed his life, rerouted it, and his book his self-declared spiritual and physical autobiography, became his testimony, as powerful as if he had started a humanitarian movement, but he didn’t. He left it to us to volunteer, day by day, in the same spirit, which is his and Christ’s.

Meditative, morning thoughts returning, in spite of the unexpected sunshine perforating this rainy autumn week, to the grandiose and proud verbiage below that photograph, and the subsequent praises it produced, I am struck by the pervasive fantasy the human race falls into when it has decided that one of its favored causes is also God’s. I am speaking here, of course, of the state of Israel, a state set up and maintained mostly by Europeans and Americans of Jewish extraction in a land historically occupied by other peoples, originally Palestinians, of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faith. Most of those original peoples have by now been banished from their homeland to make room for Jewish immigrants from all over the world. This is the result of an ethno-political philosophy known as Zionism.

Back to the ‘pervasive fantasy’ relevant to this cause, to Zionism, though started by secular European Jews as a solution to the perennial persecution of the Jews in nearly every country, and given an incredible boost by the Holocaust of World War II, this cause is in large part supported by American evangelical Christians. Most of the praises I read below the photograph of the young Israeli soldier were penned by this sort of Christian. Raised in their sects to believe that Israel is still God’s favorite nation and deserving of anything and everything that God gives them, whether taken by their military might or not, they can’t help but find their own ‘faith’ bolstered by identifying with Israel’s victories over its enemies. No better example of faith by proxy can be found. Unvictorious in their own lives, the victories of others become their victories, as the machinery of mistaken theology crushes real people, mercilessly.

People forget what is inconvenient, and call it forgiveness. One does not have to be an anti-Semite (though one will certainly be called one) to point out that the Jews of the time of Christ rejected Him as Messiah, even if they were not the ones who actually put Him to death. In this case, their rejection of Him was an even worse sin than His crucifixion and death because He had to die in order to redeem humanity and reopen to us the gates of Paradise. Had they accepted Him, we cannot say how the redemption and the reopening of Paradise would have taken place. But they did not accept Him, and for this rejection they were, indeed, and at His words, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,’ forgiven. Yes, they were forgiven, along with the rest of us, but forgiveness does not necessarily wipe out consequences, neither theirs nor ours.

The rejection of Jesus Christ by the Jews of His time had consequences for them. Their glorious Temple was laid waste, never to be rebuilt. As a nation, though they were already scattered by previous national disasters into all corners of the known world, their possession of the land of Canaan, modern Palestine, was ended, and they were exiled, as a people of faith, until the return of Christ. This was common knowledge and universal belief among Christians throughout history, and in their own version, accepted by believing Jews as well. In the prayer books of my own Jewish ancestors I find prayers ‘to end our exile’ in abundance. They knew they were exiled, they just didn’t know why, or refused to accept why. Their ancestors rejected the Messiah when He came, and following tradition, they perpetuate that rejection, and thereby continue their exile. That is, until the supporters of Zionism brushed God and Christ aside, and took matters into their own hands.

Yes, forgiveness is real. God really does forgive us when we do what we know is wrong. It seems He even forgives us before we ask to be forgiven, as Christ does on the Cross. People fail to appreciate this. Yes there is forgiveness, but there are consequences.

When we speak of forgiveness as the Lord does in His model prayer, ‘Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,’ that is one kind of forgiveness, the forgiveness of a debt. We know how that works. I owe you a thousand dollars, but I cannot pay it, and you forgive the debt, receiving nothing. An example of this in modern terms is bankruptcy. Other kinds of forgiveness do not work that way. In fact, except for debts, and maybe not even excepting them, with every form of forgiveness, there are consequences.

If a man and a woman who are not married engage in sex, and the woman becomes pregnant, there will be a baby. Whether or not their fornication is looked at as a sin or merely a mistake, there are consequences. Either she will have a baby, or commit something unthinkable, but in both cases, life must change, the terms under which they live, change. This is just one, obvious example. Others are innumerable.

So the Jews, both past and present, are forgiven for rejecting Jesus as Messiah, and for whatever reasons, yet there are consequences. Ejection from the promised land, and worldwide exile.

According to the apostle Paul, who did not know that either of these consequences were to take place—they were both in the future when he wrote his epistles—when the Jews finally come to their senses and accept Jesus Christ, that will mean a resurrection of the dead. We are not told any more than what he writes, ‘Since their rejection meant the reconciliation of the world, do you know what their admission will mean? Nothing less than a resurrection from the dead!’ (Romans 11:15).

We don’t know if he meant, literally, the resurrection of the dead, an event that means the Day of the Lord—Judgment Day—has arrived, but it seems that he takes it as a certainty that the Jews will at some point accept Christ. Well, as individuals this has been going on for centuries, but Israel as a people still exists, based on only one fact: their rejection of Jesus Christ. And that rejection has consequences: ejection and diaspora.

Remembrance, to once again become members of one another. Our Christian faith is centered on this one thing, ‘Do this in remembrance of Me,’ by which we become members of one another, and even more, members of Him.

Remembrance, uniting us here and now to our ancestors, all of them, all of them veterans of that ‘war, and a longer and greater one than any,’ showing us the reality that ‘we are who we were,’ and that beyond the veils of time and place, there is really only one humanity, one human family, even one human Soul, just as there is only one Spirit—God.

Remembering, let us also forget, not what injustices, what cruelties and crimes are taking place on our earth right now—for we are alive, and must work to end these, being forgiven by Christ—let us also forget everything that divides us, all that conquers us and prevents us from reaching the goal.

And what is this goal? The end of our exile. The end of our ejection from the true Promised Land which has been opened by Christ, not just to the Jews, but to everyone.

Αιωνια η μνημη, aionía í mními. Memory eternal, to those who love us and, to those who hate us. Christ has forgiven us all. Αιωνια η μνημη.

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