Understanding a Mystery

Understanding a Mystery

Israel or Palestine – where is it heading?

A sermon by Richard Matcham based on Romans 11:25-36

“Lord I pray that the raw nerves and thin shells this topic will likely touch upon, will enlarge the capacity of us all to engage truthfully with the text and the world, and challenge us to be contentedly discontent with mystery, that we may be more loving to one another, and truly worship you in all your unsearchable and inscrutable ways.  Amen”

Have you ever been in a discussion with someone, on a topic that really interests you, and at the crucial point of insight, understanding and genuine learning, you hear the comment, “Ah, we can’t ever know that, it’s a mystery!”

We often deploy the “mystery card” because it seems to be a way of protecting our own limited understanding on a subject.

Take for example, the Trinity (you know what I mean)!

I’ve faced this situation quite a few times over the years, especially as a young Christian man in my mid-20’s, hungry to learn and know God.

“The Trinity,” we shout, “it’s a mystery.”  And with that mystical phrase, the conversation is closed, and genuine biblical understanding is shoved into the cul-de-sac of frustrated, genuine enquirers, where they stay until they learn to stop asking awkward questions!

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Apartheid: any system or practice that separates people according to color, ethnicity, caste, etc.

tshirt“Jimmy Carter, the former president of the USA and member of the group of elders published a book called Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. This brought into the mainstream something that was known to people close to Palestine and Israel for a while. Palestinian Christians and Muslims are living as second class citizens under an apartheid regime. Here are some examples:

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Desmond Tutu on Israel

desmond_tutu-420x0“World-wide commitment to peace in the Holy Land is vital.”  We must “question the assumptions underpinning the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians….We in South Africa remember with gratitude the extraordinary phenomenon of the world-wide movement against apartheid.  And after years of tribulation, here we are, finally, free! South Africa, once a pariah state, and an embarrassment to many is now a blossoming democracy.  And all because people around the world prayed for us, supported us, and were even willing to go to jail for us.

Now, alas, we see apartheid in Israel, complete with the ‘Separation Wall’ and Israel_Palestine_Flag[1] bantustans that keep Palestinians rounded up in prisons.  History tragically repeats itself.  Yet, injustice and oppression will never prevail.  Those who are powerful have to remember the litmus test that God gives to the powerful:  ‘How do you treat the poor, the hungry, and the voiceless?’  And God judges accordingly. wall

We need to put out a clarion call to the government of the people of Israel, to the Palestinian people, saying, ‘Peace is possible.  Peace based on justice is possible.  We will do all we can to assist you to achieve that peace, because it is God’s dream, and you will be able to live amicably together as sisters and brothers.

We in South Africa had a relatively peaceful transition.  If the madness which oppressed us could end as it did, it must be possible for the same to happen everywhere else in the world.  If peace could come to South Africa, surely it can come to the Holy Land.  Somehow, the Israeli government is placed on a pedestal in the US, and to criticise it is to be immediately dubbed antisemitic.  People are scared in the US, to say ‘wrong is wrong’, because the pro-Israeli lobby is powerful – very powerful.  Well, so what?

For goodness sake, this is God’s world!  We live in a moral universe.  grave skullThe apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists.  Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosevic, and Idi Amin were all powerful, but, in the end, they bit the dust.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu in his foreword in Speaking the Truth, Zionism, Israel and the Occupation.

Skull picture from a fascinating story told here:  http://cindyrosstraveler.com/tag/duffys-cut-mass-grave/

The Baptist Missionary Society (BMS) have a superb resource called ‘Catalyst‘, published quarterly, one of which was specifically on the subject of Israel and Palestine.  The article can be requested through the post or viewed on line here, and I whole heartedly commend this to you.

Additionally, David Kerrigan, Director General of the BMS, has a most excellent blog karnaphuli.typepad.com, in which he has an article on the relationship between popular Christian Zionism and theology.  You can view it here, as well as another post on ignorance not being an option, here.